The Dark Horse, Thursday 8th May
“This is definitely not a play” Chris Dobrowolski began in response to a misleading advert of his one man show, All Roads Lead to Rome “this is what I like to call, pointing at pictures with a stick!” Whilst setting the light-hearted tone of the evening – and there certainly was a lot of picture pointing, to define the show on this remark alone severely underplays the quality of the performance; combining video, photography and some bizarre inventions. On entering Belfast’s The Dark Horse the first thing we noticed was an old black and white TV connected to a fridge via some large tubing, its function remained a mystery for the majority of the evening.
Part performance artist, part sculptor and inventor Dobrowolski’s project began with the resurrection of his Polish father’s old Triumph Herald Estate with a thorough repair one winter. It was then driven from his home town in Braintree, England and across Italy to find the factory where it was originally designed.
A quest made perilous by the regular break downs of the car, this tale may not initially appeal to everyone, especially when much of the introduction revolves around images from his mother’s photo album. Yet Dobrowolski’s eccentric and theatrical manner transforms ‘pointing at pictures with a stick’ into an engaging and thoroughly interesting investigation that develops from quirky art project that once completed became a personal journey retracing his father’s steps in Italy as a soldier in WWII.
The main bulk of the show follows Dobrowolski’s visits to various locations that were part of his father’s war time experience and the darker parts of Italy’s recent history, pieced together for the audience with video, images and stories (delivered with the original ‘colourful’ English language that his father learnt working on a building site). From the Polish war cementary at Monte Cassino, to the sinister Fascist memorabilia shops and off-licenses of Predappio the Triumph Herald car is present throughout. Along the way Dobrowolski provides some humorous observations on human attachment to objects and consumerism, embodied by his own sentiment towards his father’s car and explored in his impressive kinetic art pieces built on his trip. This is followed by a darkly amusing side quest to discover who or what resides where Mussolini was publicly hanged, as always despite some of the more morbid content, Dobrowolski’s entertaining delivery rarely misses the mark.
As the show draws to a close, the mystery of the TV fridge is unleashed and the journey ends with a rather poignant twist that occurred more recently whilst All Roads Lead to Rome had been touring. Still building and exploring, you can keep updated with this project on his blog.
I think this show will appeal to fans of storytelling, art and comedy alike, so if you are looking for something a little different I’d highly recommend checking this out when Chris Dobrowolski takes his travels to a place near you.
1st – 11th May 2014 – Cathedral Quarter, Belfast