The Stefan Golaszewski Plays, two bittersweet monologues about lost love, were first seen in Edinburgh. Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About a Girl He Once Loved premiered at the Pleasance in 2008 while Stefan Golaszewski is a Widower was performed at the Traverse earlier this summer. This is the first time they’ve been staged together, but they share similar themes and preoccupations and work well as a double bill.
Speaks About a Girl is a lovingly detailed account of a teenage brief encounter with a girl called Betty. The couple first meets over a packet of pork scratching in a pub, exchange texts, and go on one long, strange date over the course of which it becomes clear that this is the only night they will ever spend together.
Golaszewski really captures the tone of someone who is in theory an adult, a man, able to drive a car and buy a pint in a pub, but in reality anything but - his ideas about women and life culled mainly from Home and Away. The words fizz from him – his shock that a girl like Betty would even consider going out with him his palpable and his pain on discovering that his imagined future with her is not to be is comparably raw. The language is vivid and joyous and energetic, and the monologue is cleverly grounded in a particular time through the use of the comedy catchphrases of the day (mainly Fast Show derived).
The second play is far more ambitious in intention. The year is 2056 and a white-suited Golaszewski speaks from the perspective of an elderly man who has recently lost his wife. He talks about his marriage and the awe and excitement and oddness he felt on his wedding day. He describes the joy of fatherhood and the awful event that would tear an unmendable hole in his marriage. He speaks with bitterness about the indignity of aging, the diminishing, the growing frailty, the pain. But while the first play had vibrancy this one feels weighted by its own striving to be something more than it is.
The language - the verbal bursts and lexical dexterity - that were so appealing in the first play, feel jarring in this new context. Golaszewski over-salts the text; the words lead him rather than the other way round. His writing, which proved so effective when describing a young man, poised on the cusp of adulthood and fizzing with life, is less successful when conveying someone older, someone broken down. There are some wonderful lines, some lovely descriptive phrases, but the play feels as if it needs to be simpler, cleaner – instead it has to fight against its own verbal clutter. It’s not without poignancy and a degree of bitterness, a black thread of a disappointment and despair, but they emerge despite rather than because of the writing.
Golaszewski is an affable, energetic performer, who pitches his material well, drawing out the emotional notes, but only in the first play do all the elements come together in a truly satisfying way.
Reviewed for musicOMH