The Roman Bath (Stanislav Stratiev) Arcola Theatre 15 May

***

Picture from Arcola site, with the help of Ctrl + Alt + PrtSc

A healthy crowd turned out for the £5 final matinee of this Bulgarian comedy.

The basic story is that the hero (Ivan Antonov) returns from holiday to find that a Roman bath has been discovered beneath the floor of his flat, and divers lowlifes and others want to profit from it.  Of course, since this is Communist-era Bulgaria there’s no question of him finding another place to live.  Hilarious consequences ensue, especially with the interruptions of the lifeguard, who has been appointed to make sure that nobody drowns in the swimming pool.

At the end, the other pretenders find themselves ousted by the local party cell, and the hero and his new girlfriend Martha, who started out as the fiancee of the ambitious archaeologist Vasilev MA, slip away to join the people, taking with them only a couple of mementoes of the the part Antonov’s family played in nthe revolutionary struggle.

So far so Nikolai Erdman–in Mandat some accommodation becomes unexpectedly available and various pretenders appear while in The Suicide a threatened suicide also attracts different factions wanting to claim it for themselves; in both cases it all ends with realising that the people is right.  So this one loses by not having the edge of desperation in the original situation and gains in the sheer absurdity of what goes on.

There was certainly plenty of  laughter from the £5 audience, though some people also did not return after the interval.  I thought that Ifan Meredith did well as the typical man-on-the-edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown comic here, while Rhona Croker as the love interest rather underplayed, and portrayed her changes of mood too matter-of-factly.  Contrariwise, I thought that Bo Poraj as the curator-of-fine-arts-come-spiv Banev pressed a bit too hard and didn’t give the jokes quite enough time to take effect.  Lloyd Woolf as the Lifeguard and Derek Schaal as the Party Rep were both very sound.

The design featured a load of crap in the middle of the indeterminate (but excessively large) black void that is Arcola Studio 1.  The lighting left Antonov’s face in the dark on a couple of occasions when we would have liked to have seen it.

So, not bad for £5, and I got the chance to try out the East London Line as well.

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