The Fallen Gypsy written and performed by Natalie Breton, directed by Linda Matassa. Presented by Under the Bridge at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to June 8, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $15-$20, Sunday pwyc. 416-538-0988. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
A month after the tedious Home Is My Road, the romanticization of the Romani by white, liberal female writers from the West continues with The Fallen Gypsy, a painfully earnest piece of pap based on the life of Rom songwriter/poet Bronislawa Wajs, aka Papusza.I'm sure writer/performer Natalie Breton found Wajs's story compelling. Papusza is apparently the first literate female Rom poet, a woman ostracized by her own community, then put in a mental institution after publishing her poems.
Committed to the material, Breton recites snatches of poems, rolls on the ground, hangs in a symbolic tree and rises ghostlike from the ground covered in leaves. Imagine a combination of the young Helen Keller and Jodie Foster's Nell.
I'm not sure Breton and director Linda Matassa have found the best way to relate Wajs's story. This production, with set by April Viczko and lighting by David Gibbons, lends ambience, and the contribution of improvisational violinist Karen Graves adds a lot.
But the script stops and starts, and Breton never settles on a clear or consistent tone. The result feels like bad performance art.