Choose an envelope. If you open it to find a ration card, you receive one sweet. If you’re lucky enough to find a communist dollar, you receive a whole box of sweets. This neat little idea sets the tone for Bubble Revolution: a humorous yet deceptively commanding story of communism’s spread, and then demise, in Poland.
Writer Julia Holewinska’s one-person play tells of Wiktoria (Kasia Lech), who experiences the infiltration of capitalism not with guns and political rhetoric, but with Coca-Cola and Nutella. As products begin to pour into Poland alongside British and American TV shows in the 1980s, Wiktoria’s eyes light up beneath glowing McDonald’s billboards, as to become part of the capitalist consumer industry trumps all other pursuits.
This deeply satirical riff on the ultimate emptiness of capitalism is well covered ground in theatre, yet the subject is approached from a passionately fresh angle by its conversation on Polish identity. After 2004, Poles represented the largest bloc of émigrés to the UK, and the stigma that followed their arrival is the basis for Bubble Revolution, which provides a partial manifesto for young Poles living here today.
Holewinska identifies a link between the free-market revolution and global displacement. What does it mean to tie one’s conception of national identity to consumer products? This is a supremely intelligent piece of personal history, which contemplates how Britain and the US are the very countries that drive the mass movement of people, yet then demonise those same individuals in the process.