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A CurtainUp London London Review
A Time to Reap

Wives just happen to a man sometime. — Jan
A Time to Reap
Max Bennett as Piotr and Sinéad Matthews as Marysia (Photo: Robert Workman)
There are three characters in Anna Wakulik's play A Time to Reap: Marysia and Piotr who are 25 years old and Piotr's father Jan, a gynaecologist. They meet at the Festival of the Assumption in mid August in Marysia's home town when Marysia and Piotr are aged 4. Marysia is a Catholic and gets pregnant at 17 on her first sexual experience, with a Catholic priest. Helping her out of this predicament is Jan the abortionist, who Marysia starts work for as his secretary. A Time to Reap examines the relationship in Catholic dominated Poland between abortion and Catholicism through the characters of Ms Wakulik's play.

Marysia (Sinéad Matthews) is a devout Catholic interspersing her conversation with Hail Marys. At eight she says she would "never, ever kill a baby in her tummy" because it's a sin. In 1993 the anti-abortion bill is signed as Poland throws off Communism and officially becomes a Catholic country. For Jan, this is a brilliant career move as he becomes "one of the most sought after gynaecologists in Warsaw" where he charges the best part of a month's salary for a procedure to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Jan (Owen Teale)'s wife left him after a patient, a friend of hers, died. What follows in the play is a relationship between Marysia and Jan. She is engrossed, infatuated with him and jealous of his patients and will make up ridiculous reasons why they can't see the doctor. He will fall in love with her and on her birthday buy her a left over cake designed for a baby's christening and in the shape of a baby. You can imagine what comes to mind as they cut up the cake. We get the impression that Jan is jaded by his post marriage relationship, doing it all for the second time. Piotr (Max Bennett) takes Marysia to the bright lights of London and Jan spies on them through a Facebook account. From there, Marysia's relationship with both men starts to unravel and they each squabble with her.

Sinéad Matthews has an original and childlike voice. Owen Teale looks the successful doctor in his cream linen suit and, as his son, Max Bennett conveys the lack of responsibility of one's student days in a character less defined than the other two. The set has an alcove with steps going up to a neon lit cross for Marysia's visits to church and aisles

Anna Wakulik's prose is beautifully written, full of unexpected imagery and candid, quirky thoughts from Marysia who has a charming naiveté and a psyche bound up with Catholic dogma. Some credit should also go to Catherine Grosvenor's fine translation. There are passages which are very funny as Marysia shares with us her ways of deterring patients or her reaction to London. Jan identifies with a hatred against the Catholic church and it is ironic that his career is given such a boost by the thing he despises. There is an epilogue telling us the fate of all three characters. Anna Wakulik is an exciting, new writer to look out for.

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A Time to Reap
Written by Anna Wakulik
Translated by Catherine Grosvenor
Directed by Caroline Steinbels

Starring: Sinéad Matthews, Owen Teale, Max Bennett
Designed by Max Jones
Composer: Tom Mills
Lighting: Anna Watson
Sound: Alexander Caplen
Running time: One hour 30 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 23rd March 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 27th February 2013 at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS (Tube: Sloane Square)

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