Tu I Teraz (Here and Now)

Nicola Werenowska
Mercury Theatre Colchester
Hampstead Theatre Downstairs

Mark Strepan (Kuba) and Ania Sowinski (Marysia) Credit: Philippa Baines
Ania Sowinski (Marysia) and Anna Elijasz (Anna) Credit: Philippa Baines
George Lasha (Janusz) and Ania Sowinski (Marysia) Credit: Philippa Baines

Bearing in mind the number of Polish immigrants currently testing out life in the UK, it is perhaps surprising that London has not seen more plays focusing in on their experiences.

Nicola Werenowska views the experience through the eyes of two highly contrasting sisters. Taciturn Marysia, played by the excellent Ania Sowinski, hates her home country and will do whatever it takes to make a new life in the South of England.

Her much more laid-back sister Anna, Anna Elijasz has a less jaundiced view of the Homeland, preferring to speak in Polish despite the entreaties of Marysia.

The play opens 10 years before the remainder of the action, as Anna brings Marysia's six-year-old son Mark Strepan's Kuba over to live with his single mother, only 16 years the lad's senior.

There then ensues a kind of reverse tug of love between the sisters which almost ends with the little boy immediately returning whence he came and leaves the women at on bitter, non-speaking terms.

A decade on, Marysia is living in Colchester and has a respectable job working in a high street bank. Kuba is a relatively docile but still moody teen who exclusively speaks English, unless he is having a bad dream, which mysteriously emerges in angry Polish.

Their relationship is tested and renewed as a result of an unexpected visit by homeless Anna, who enters into a renewed tug of love for Kuba's affections, instilling in the boy at least a little knowledge of a country about which he knows absolutely nothing.

For a couple of hours packed with innumerable short scenes, Miss Werenowska allows us to become intimately acquainted with this trio, as well as Marysia's ex-husband Janusz. George Lasha plays this reformed, contrite character who is now keen to re-establish relations with his former wife and stepson.

Tu I Teraz is a play about conflict but also the perennial debate over nature versus nurture. It shines an intriguing light on the difficulties suffered by Polish immigrants to the United Kingdom, while making many significant points, primarily about relationships, that are transnational.

Nicola Werenowska works very hard and, at times, sacrifices continuity in order to make her points. Even so, with a talented cast under the direction of Sam Potter, she has created a play that is well worth seeing and which promises much for the future.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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