You don’t really know what to expect when you’re given earplugs at the entrance to a show. Something loud – sure – but loud can be a good thing or a bad thing.  In this case, loud was amazing!

In the Solitude of Cotton Fields was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Two actors stood on a bare stage in front of two mics, wearing the same black suits. Behind them, band The Natural Born Chillers were poised to play, instruments and electronic equipment at the ready.

Suddenly, the room went completely dark. There was silence for a moment… and then the show began, with an onslaught of pounding music, billowing smoke and frenzied dancing. It’s hard to put into words the energy that was created in the room. You could feel the sound waves inside your body, vibrating with the rhythm of the music and the perfectly choreographed lighting design.

The dialogue of Bernard-Marie Koltes’ French play is delivered in Polish, but the translation written by Marian Mahor is projected onto the screen that provides the backdrop to the actors and musicians. The details of the scene are minimal – a dark alley where men and beasts roam could be a real street in a real city or a mythical underworld. The characters, known only as The Dealer and The Client, tiptoe and dance around each other linguistically and physically while discussing a deal – the exchange of some unspecified goods or services for an unknown payment. All of the lines are delivered straight out to the audience, but in the moments of physical interplay between the two, the complex nature of their relationship is revealed. They both need, crave and resent each other, and flit from fury to tenderness to nonchalance in the space of seconds. The text is strong, poetic and honest and it’s beautifuly delivered by actors Wojciech Niemczyk (The Dealer), Tomasz Nosinski (The Client). “The only thing that really matters is the fact that… you looked at me” The Dealer reminds The Client, adamantly asserting his ability to anticipate and meet any conceivable desire.

Director Radoslaw Rychcik’s “hysterical theatre” approach does not always have the desired effect: a video montage towards the end of the piece is overly long, and feels like it is trying far too hard to be shocking and edgy. The physical sequence that follows conveys far more in its subtlety, and as the piece heads towards its inevitable conclusion, the deal takes place and everything returns to its opening state with a mutual agreement that nothing took place.

The integral live soundtrack provided by the Natural Born Chillers was electrifying, you could feel the wave sound vibrations in your body, which complemented the emotional and visual aspects of the performance. Before the show began PuSh Festival Executive Director Norman Armour explained how blown away he was by Poland’s theatre scene. Having seen the show once before, he was delighted that the company were able to stop in Vancouver for the PuSh Festival during a tour taking in New York, LA, Seattle and Portland. With only four dates in Vancouver before the company heads to Chile, this is a show worth seeing while you have the chance. Saturday night’s final performance has an added bonus – The Natural Born Chillers will play a concert at Performance Works on Saturday after the show. Admission to see the band is only $5.0o.

In the Solitude of Cotton Fields is a co-presentation by Pi Theatre, PuSh Festival and The Polish Cultural Institute in New York. On at Performance Works until Saturday 22nd January. For tickets, see the PuSh website.

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