Traverse, Edinburgh, until Sat 11 Oct
Catherine Grosvenor’s Cherry Blossom is an impassioned attempt to represent the experience of Poles migrating to the West, while Lorne Campbell’s direction ensures that the play – performed in English and Polish – is understandable to speakers of both languages. But it’s Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer (of Black Watch and Dorian Gray) upon whose highly technological, Cluedo board-like set the audience ultimately depend to guide them through the intertwining stories: the fictional tale of Grazyna, who leaves her family in Poland to work in an Edinburgh meat factory, and the real-life tragedy of Robert Dziekanski, who died at the hands of police at Vancouver Airport in October 2007.
A joint venture between the Traverse and Teatr Polski, the play’s four actors perform each of the characters in turn in both languages. It’s testament to their versatility and Grosvenor’s strong characterisation that this works so effectively. Grazyna’s story is touching too: her confusion on arrival in Edinburgh neatly gives way to the precarious confidence she feels once settled in.
But it’s in the story of Robert Dziekanski that Cherry Blossom misses its mark. The narrative suffers from taking a backseat to the rest of the play, never quite matching the liveliness of Grazyna’s tale. Despite this – and the faltering subtitles – Cherry Blossom is a compelling piece of theatre, and an exciting example of cross-border artistic collaboration.