St. Michael's Theatre New Ross got its Autumn Programme off to a great start with an exciting and thought provoking one-woman show, I Miss Communism.  Featuring its Croatian-born American-based author and actress Ines Wurth as she performed over a dozen roles to tell a many-layered story about identity, memory and the tragedy of history in former Yugoslavia.

Wurth was born in Zagreb, when it was under the role of Tito, a milder form of Communist dictator, when compared to Stalin.  She grew up and seemed to like the strict regime that provided housing, food of sorts, education and medical services.  She became an economic migrant to America to pursue an acting career and when she returned to Croatia was shocked by the economic and social chaos as faction fought faction where before there was only one leader, one people, one state.  It would be too simplistic to say that she yearned for the imposed certainty of Communism but she had difficulty copying with the chaos freedom brought to that fragmented part of Europe, whose terrible story is only beginning to be told and perhaps only beginning to be understood.

With the simplest of theatrical gestures she becomes her grandmother (a fussy scold), her obese mother (a control parent) and traces a family line that was devoid of males, unless they were soldiers or away at the war.  Using songs from Oliver! One of the few children’s programmes allowed on State TV because it showed the flaws of Capitalism.  She sang snatches from the show to create humour and fun and at the same time introduce darker more sinister images of being locked in rooms and cellars.  Amid versions from All That Jazz and The Internationale, the mood got colder and darker and her imprisonment by ethnic jailers had the touch of parental correction and much darker, more inhuman images.

If, at times, the work got more oblique, it was to protect the personality of a child who took refuge in Who Will Buy? As if selling a child was somehow normal.

I liked this distancing of the story, yet could sense the sadness behind the façade; I liked the powerful intense quality of the work that never ladled on the tears or exploited a human tragedy.  Yes it was slickly done but it never missed a heartbeat.  This was a story well told and the audience knew that and saluted Ines Wurth as a survivor and theatre professional on a long world tour, knowing that it was a story worth telling and experiencing.



By Liam Murphy