Rosa Rauchbach is a Silesian translator that managed to hide her Jewish roots. She can speak several languages, including English; that gets her a job at the Prisoner of War camp. There, she meets Horace Greasley – a British barber, captured in 1941. Love and lust tie the pair together quickly. To see his sweetheart, Horace repeatedly risks his life to escape – over two hundred times! Rosa risks her life to find food and supplies for her lover, tempting the fate and overcoming the fear of being sent to Auschwitz if anything goes wrong. But, thankfully, the doom is never near in this humorous play from Lost Watch.
Everyone has seen at least a handful of works, be it on stage or on the big screen, that try to tell us a story about the war. Very often, the scriptwriter decides to accentuate its every vice – and frequently enough, they also forget that despite tough times, ordinary people were trying to carry on with life to the extent allowed by their circumstances. Flew the Coop, written by Lost Watch’s Rianna Dearden and directed by Louise Skaaning of Them Birds Theatre, does exactly the opposite. There are only so many grim moments – such as the story of a girl who got shot for passing an apple to a soldier, or the prisoners punished for an escape attempt. However, that doesn’t make feelings reverberate any less. The moments in the church, when Horace tries to persuade Rosa that he could ultimately escape, or their conversations about “the life after war” hit the right emotional tone. And that’s because sometimes, to prove how heroic the characters are, it’s enough to show a tasteful rendition of how they held onto normality in difficult conditions.
Rianna Dearden, Daniel Holme, Dan Armstrong, Olivia Hirst and Agnes Wild create a play that beams with contagious energy, bringing us many well-timed chuckles. The cast is doing an absolutely stellar job in managing the pace and telling a broad story that requires so many participants with only five actors. The system they use is not that baffling at all once we get to know the main characters, it finds its flow quite quickly, then becomes natural to follow. Also, the character transitions are choreographed to the very last second – from brief role switches to dance breaks instead of sex scenes, which provide for hilarious transitions.
Our guides here are The Rauchbach Greasley Association Society Club, committed to the Silesian love story as much as they are devoted to the love of the region with the capital in Katowice. Touching upon the Silesian identity, they also give us a tiny political nudge that parodies making things great again, wherever in the world it might be. What’s also interesting is their “outsider perspective”, well-researched but not overly preoccupied with reconstructing the story.
Although we’re told that “events are told exactly as they happened, apart from the ones that are completely made up,” it’s really difficult to tell the dramatisation from the truth. Instead, the play connects an inspiration derived from the real story, the matter of identity and a humorous take on regional pride that feels so integral to every “made in Silesia” skit I’ve seen in my life. And I believe in one thing: Krzysztof Hanke and Joanna Bartel, the most famous Silesian comedian duo in Poland, would certainly approve, and Franciszek Pieczka, who played Gustlik in the WWII series back in the 1960s revealing his Silesian wit, also wouldn’t leave this hilarious play without appreciation.
Flew the Coop is on at New Diorama Theatre until the 4th of March.