Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Poland 3 Iran 2

Mehrdad Seyf and Chris Dobrowolski
30 Bird Productions
Toynbee Studios
(2011)

Poland 3 Iran 2 publicity image

Photo albums are usually objects of dread, trawled out, slapped down and inescapable once opened so Poland 3 Iran 2 is a nice change from this polite form of torture; while at its barest a series of photos on a projector screen with anecdotes attached, it is is warm, funny and genuinely interesting.

The night is based around the slightly surreal real lives of Chris and Mehrdad. There's some football, some politics, but mostly it's about their family history and their childhood stories.

Chris Dobrowolski's dad was a Pole who made it through the Second World War with a gramophone and Mehrdad Seyf's Iranian mother was a communist who was supposed to be throwing tomatoes at cinema screens but actually was interested in striking Hollywood-esque poses.

What makes Poland 3 Iran 2 work is that, while there probably are some fictional moments in here (although it is difficult to pick out which exactly), the tone is very genuine and the photos are real.

This fits snugly into the setting, a low key bar with no stage, as this is essentially two people sharing their stories, giving the audience a guided tour of their interesting and idiosyncratic lives so that it feels more like an extended series of very entertaining pub stories than a piece of theatre.

What's more difficult is that we jerkingly move from the Second World War to the recent Iranian elections, with only some faint football references to tie both points together. The titular football match between Poland and Iran is in here somewhere, but it's buried away and, ultimately, not too important.

The mishmash throughout the night of somewhat intellectual points and light emotions goes well with this production's down to earth feel and there are a number of great moments. Whether it's going over the slightly racist errors in a football sticker album or Iran's Art Council, both Dobrowolski and Mehrad are engaging and fun. It's clear that Seyf, confident and relaxed, is the more seasoned performer of the two while Dobrowolski was nervous and occasionally stuttering, but in a charming way.

At the end you do feel as if you know these two people and you'll want to take them out for a drink to hear more of their stories.

Poland 3 Iran 2 may not be the most ambitious piece of theatre to grace the stage, but it's a laugh as well as an insight into some very interesting lives.

Reviewer: Tobias Chapple