Cold War ★★★★ Almeida Theatre | Nov 30, 2023 - Jan 27, 2024

Pawel Pawlikowski's award winning movie of 2018 is set against the backdrop of the Cold War and recounts the love story of two Polish musicians. The 88 minute film presents two individuals who make different sacrifices for their artistic careers and whose tempestuous relationship both fulfills and blights them. Composer Wiktor flees to Paris to find freedom, but he soon learns that capitalism only demands different compromises from those imposed in communist Poland. His partner, Zula, opts to make a singing career in their homeland despite the political constraints, but she eventually follows Wiktor to France where she is unhappy and dissatisfied. When she returns to Poland, he follows her, knowing that his repatriation will mean imprisonment. Their relationship mirrors the frustration and mutually debilitating reality of the international political situation. They cannot live apart and they cannot live together. Through all of this the constant is the music which reflects the spirit of the Polish people that is distorted by the Cold War and which is represented by the shattered relationship of the couple. The theatrical version of this story is enriched by a score of Polish folk songs and compositions from the great Elvis Costello. It works to create a wonderfully evocative atmosphere that highlights the poignant love story. As Wiktor, Luke Thallon does a fine job of capturing the taciturn, introspective nature of his character, but Anya Chalotra's strident, rather than vivacious, Zula, doesn't seem to warrant his devotion. Elliot Levey brings a nice depth to the opportunistic, but not unlikeable, Kaczmarek, and for us, Alex Young as Irena also stood out, bringing a strong voice and understated sensibility to her character. Choreographer Ellen Kane does a great job of using the confined space she is given, and Jon Bausor's minimalist set worked well to set the tone. Full marks also to director, Rupert Goold, who has done a first-rate job of bringing Pawlikowski's unforgettable depiction of a relationship and an era to the stage.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner

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