Review: Small Narration, Summerhall (Venue 26)

IN ONE of the creaking Summerhall lecture theatres, a young man with a shut-down expression and haunted eyes sits on a high stool, reading expressionlessly from a script in which he reflects on his experiences of the past few years. His name is Wojtek Ziemilski and behind him, a screen shows an almost bewildering series of images.

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Sometimes, there are pages of text from the report which exposed Ziemilski’s grandfather as a long-term informer with the Communist security services. Sometimes, there is video of recent performance art installations across Europe, each one more absurdist in intention than the last. And shatteringly, towards the end, there are a few fragments of film of Ziemilski’s grandfather himself – a shuffling, harmless-looking old man – intercut with black-and-white photographs of him in his smiling prime.

Ziemlinski’s deliberately blank delivery is not easy to listen to, and no-one could describe this 45-minute show as entertainment. Yet it has a certain grim beauty of its own, and in the end, it delivers a quietly devastating account of the forces that have compelled a generation to abandon grand narratives and to question the very idea of a search for meaning, in the world of illusions, lies and uncertainties their parents and grandparents have left them.