Teatr Biuro Podrozy, Drink Vinegar Gentlemen

Review in Issue 11-3 | Autumn 1999

In the shadow of much international acclaim for their stark anti-war piece Carmen Funebre, it was a courageous and innovative step for the Polish company Teatr Biuro Podrozy to return to Edinburgh with this much smaller scale, indoor, absurdist comedy.

Revealing and celebrating the company’s versatility and diversity of skills, Drink Vinegar Gentlemen is a collection of short scenes inspired by the Russian writer Daniil Kharms. Kharms’ writing, still little known in this country, prominently features sudden death, falling, accidents and chance violence. Kharms conveys more vividly than any other writer of his time, the precarious nature of life in Stalin’s Russia. For this reason, his works were banned there until the 1980s. At the height of Stalin’s purges in 1937, he was recorded to have stated: ‘I am interested only in “nonsense”: only in that which makes no practical sense. I am interested in life only in its absurd manifestation.’

A previous acquaintance with Kharms’ writing might be an advantage when approaching this work. However, Biuro Podrozy interpret what Kharms describes as his ‘incidences’, with a charm and originality that mean previous experience of Kharms’ texts are not essential. The majority of the action focuses around a huge hardback book, from which people emerge and disappear into. It is opened, closed, destroyed, mended, and used, from every angle in the course of the action.

The company members gave concrete evidence of their comic abilities, not to mention their physical agility and musical skills. Their comic creations are a far cry from the haunted individuals of Carmen Funebre and this production, whilst bizarre, is full of energy, comedy and once again displays the company’s strong ensemble work.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-3
p. 22