A Man Called Rolex: Doing the Balkan bop

Gypsy women offering us shots of vodka at the door just as the weather is turning from cold to icy is not only a welcome gesture but a sign we’re in for a rollicking ride. The thumping Balkan beat played live by the cast complete with granny on tuba and a wheelchair-bound uncle replete in dirty underpants playing drums reinforces the impression that whatever transpires, it is bound to be interesting.

Collaborating international companies Batida from Denmark and UK-based New International Encounter (NIE) live up to the expectations they create as the cast of eight (or was it nine, or ten?) who make up their flamboyant Eastern European family, flirt with slapstick and satire as they relate their rambunctious yet sad tale of an eldest daughter’s disgraceful liaison with a painter on the verge of great success, and the trials of living under an autocratic state.

Reminiscent of Eastern European films such as Black Cat White Cat and Time of the Gypsies, their madcap A Man Called Rolex, liberally interspersed with illiberal dancing to thwomping music expertly played at the drop of a hat by the actors, is a hoot.

Their innovative use of stretched canvasses to create a fascinating set which they unfussily assemble and dissemble and rearrange throughout the play, reveals the level of professionalism upon which their nigh-hilarious act of peasant amateurism rests.

There is no real search for meaning, or philosophical depth to A Man Called Rolex, other than the reminder of our own flawed, sad, ridiculous human condition. The strength of this show is its professionalism, unabashed celebration and, despite the complexity of the set and number of instruments on stage, its simplicity.

Steve Kretzmann

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