Karola Gajda / Peta Lily, My Polish Roots (and Other Vegetables)

Review in Issue 18-4 | Winter 2006

My Polish Roots is a confessional-autobiographical investigation of cultural identity and family history using verbal narration, film and made-before-your-eyes beetroot soup. It shifts with ease from everyday observations about food, haircuts and handbags to the big issues of cultural displacement and the legacy of the Holocaust. Karola Gajda’s mode of presentation is intimate, relaxed in an engaging and slightly nervous here-I-am-in-front-of-all-you-people way. Her onstage persona has a clown-like quality of personal insecurity transposed into a theatrical plus-point that I suspect has been nurtured by collaborator/director Peta Lily (mime-clown and veteran self-as-the-source theatrical performer).

We are carried through the lunchtime hour with ease, only realising afterwards the depth of theatrical experience that we have absorbed. Images stay to haunt, the mundane and the monumental merging (as they do): an on-screen chat with a Polish hairdresser about a perm that goes wrong; trails of deepest red beetroot juice on a white apron echoing bloody footsteps in the snow; the recounting of shameful memories (and believe me, people do feel shame about memories of abuse and persecution) about the Nazi abuses and persecutions that resulted in the loss of loved ones and the fleeing to foreign lands where you are forever ‘other’. How do we respond to such awful truths about the human condition? We make soup. We affirm the value of life, the need for nourishment, the continuation of traditions – affirmations and weapons that counter oppressions. A lovely piece that is full of heart and soul. Good soup too.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-4
p. 26