06 Aug 2011
With Mehrdad Seyf and Chris Dobrowolski taking their shared fascination with a 1978 match between Iran and Poland as a starting point, the football quickly receded to being a peg for a wide-ranging series of anecdotes, histories, comic digressions, coming of age stories and whatever else seemed to fit, all illustrated with slides, photographs and snippets of blurry YouTube footage from the 1978 game.
As Dobrowolski’s father made his way to the UK his unit stayed briefly in Iran, where Seyf’s father was a key figure in the local Communist Party. But the key event remained the one that first brought the two narratives together, the shared experience of watching, on televisions in very different places, that 1978 Olympic staging of a Poland-Iran football game. Within this framework both Dobrowolski and Seyf take any number of digressions, from Seyf’s mother’s attempts to reconcile her Communism with a love of Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth and Hollywood films to his own tendency to miss major historical events by being ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ – a place that often turned out to be the beach.
British Theatre Guide
10 Jun 2011
What makes Poland 3 Iran 2 work is that, while there probably are some fictional moments in here (although it is difficult to pick out which exactly), the tone is very genuine and the photos are real.
At the end you do feel as if you know these two people and you'll want to take them out for a drink to hear more of their stories.
08 Jun 2011
If you are interested in heart-rending and humorous personal accounts of WWII this is for you. If knowing more about the lesser publicized respect gained between Iran and Poland during wartime appeals; then this is for you too. If love, family life; father-son relationships and social circumstantial overview are topics that pull at your heartstrings, then you will absolutely love this. If the serious side of the political scene in these two countries, be it historical or of the present rocks your boat then this will be an education. And if sport, nerdy obsessions, childhood memories and observational humour entertains you, then all I can say is you simply must go see this!*****
08 Jun 2011
The night’s main attraction was to be 30 Bird’s Production of ‘Poland 3 Iran 2’, billed as ‘The Perfect Pub Conversation about football, fathers, revolution, swimming, chess, love and Subbuteo’
‘Poland 3 Iran 2’ is performed by the artist Chris Dobrowolski and writer/director Mehrdad Seyf, with the aid of a large screen and a laptop that projects photos, maps and film to support their stories. I say performed, but the impression gained was, as advertised, more of overhearing a particularly animated pub conversation between two great storytellers with a lot of great stories to tell. Iranian born Seyf deals with the more political aspect of the show, mixing the comic tale of his parent’s courtship, his childhood in Iran and the time his father and uncle spent in prison for political crimes. Dobrowolski’s stories focussed more on him growing up in Essex with comic reminiscences about holidays in Poland, Panini football stickers and being the sort of child who used football as a springboard for both his imagination and as a focus for his nerdiness. Both men were able to be funny without trying too hard and be reflective without being sentimental.
The joy of the show was the way that the two men, who’d taken very different roads through life, were able to find resonances between themselves and their experiences. Parallels between their childhoods, their relationships with their fathers, revolutions in their countries and their love of the beautiful game all drifted into and out of focus throughout the show. That the audience were free to sit back and enjoy the stories as simple anecdotes or to fit them into a larger narrative added to the show’s quality. The pacing throughout was excellent and the visual aids, as you’d expect from an artist, were very well thought out and added a lot to the evening.
Poland may have beaten Iran 3-2 at the Montreal Olympics in the titular game, but tonight the winner was theatre. Another great show from NEAT.
07 Jun 2011
Poland 3 Iran 2 is an effortlessly enjoyable show, retelling the narrative of Seyf and Dobrowolski’s families through objects and photos from their childhoods, while the glorious game ties together each of their own stories. This is a nostalgic show, unafraid of subversive humour or offending people. It shows how two completely different families could overcome some of the most tragic events and totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, to allow their offspring to exchange witty banter over a pint while watching a game of football.
04 Jun 2011
Broadly taken this is a piece about youth and our fathers, and the complexities of national identity as it becomes deracinated by globalisation. What brings everything to concrete life however, are the images provided by family photos, beautiful monochromatic portraits from Iran, and the scattered remains in Essex sheds of childhood toys, trains and soldiers, and a father’s army greatcoat on a peg. The energetic resourcefulness which assembles these objects is matched with a keen eye for dignifying the subject matter, and a wistful trail of a life’s ephemera shades into political pitch and moment. We end on an unexpected and unlikely note of pathos, and are reminded that sometimes football isn’t a matter of football at all, it’s far more important than that.
Daniel B Yates
Brighton Fringe 2011
14 May 2011
It’s hard to know where to start in explaining this delightful piece of performance. It’s not clearly theatre – and indeed one of the highly entertaining double act goes to some lengths to explain that he’s an artist, not an actor . It’s not a lecture – although there are slides and I feel as though I’ve learnt a huge amount about Polish history, Iranian politics and 1970’s football by the end of it. It’s a little like going to the pub with a couple of very well chosen friends of friends and so the Grand Central Bar at The Nightingale is a perfect venue.
It was a wonderfully inclusive quirky celebration of family and international relationships, and how actions both major – exile to Siberia, Iranian revolutions – and minor – learning chess, collecting train sets – set off chains of events that lead us to where we are and what we do in the present. ****
20 Aug 2010
The setting is perfect for the pair’s delivery - the geekish examination of Panini sticker albums, the holiday snaps and the installation of a train hauling a human cattle car, is just context, for a thought provoking production that goes much deeper than first appears
18 Aug 2010
Sometimes you remember a sporting occasion not necessarily for the event itself but for the events surrounding it. In Poland 3 Iran 2 , two men explore the memories, both good and bad, evoked by the 1978 Olympic Football match between the two nations.
Mehrdad Seyf and Chris Dobrowolski represent Iran and Poland respectively. They talk us through their experiences of football, revolution, censorship and family life. These anecdotes, skilfully told, have the audience laughing as Dobrowolski describes his home made World Cup Subbuteo, and reflecting with Seyf on his Uncle’s fight against extremism. A slide show of photographs and an art installation called Siberia offer a brief history lesson about the links between the two countries.
References to the Iranian elections last year suggest that even sport can’t breach the wall between Iran and the West. Ultimately, though, the message is one of hope, and that the memories we hold, even the seemingly insignificant ones, should be cherished forever.
16 Aug 2010
Watching this excellent show gave me the sort of feeling you get when you open a time capsule….Seyf and Dobrowolski are extremely charismatic and this is a wry and charming slice of history, a must for anyone who’s ever traced back a family tree or idolised a footballer. ****
12 Aug 2010
A charming production…two friends – Iranian Theatre Director Mehrdad and half Polish, all Essex artist Chris – deliver a brisk autobiographical lecture practically off the bar counter
Total Theatre Magazine
06 Aug 2010
Who’d have thought that a show about football would win my heart? Of course the secret is that this show is about far more than football – it is a beautiful exploration of boyhood, of family eccentricities, of migration, of political resistance, and of a father-son relationship as experienced by two men, one of Polish heritage (visual artist Chris Dobrowolski) and one Iranian (30Bird’s director, Mehrdad Seyf). And lest that sounds a little earnest, let me immediately say that this show is a feast of razor-sharp observations and bizarre confessions that extend beyond the immediate subject matter to grasp at universal truths – the carefully-crafted revelations contained in the details of everyday life expose a wealth of personal histories and monumental historic occurrences.
A lovely moment is when Chris shows us his holiday snaps – taken on the occasion of his father’s first return to Poland in summer 1980, after many decades in the UK. They reveal a family standing sheepishly in front of a tourist attraction in Gdansk, completely oblivious to the fact that the town was making world news headlines as Lech Wa??sa led off a Solidarity movement demo just a few streets away. Meanwhile, Seyf’s family’s life in Tehran is going into freefall as the revolution picks up strength…
The show takes the form of a performative lecture set in a (real) pub, the two men eagerly swapping the remote control to take charge of the Powerpoint. Delights include an onsite ‘toilet in a shed’ kitted out with a model train track; in-depth on-screen analysis of Subbuteo accessories through the ages; and some wonderfully distressed film footage of the legendary Poland-Iran football match that is the uniting moment for our two heroes.
Premiered at Pulse Festival in Ipswich (in June, during the World Cup!), Poland 3 Iran 2 is here seen set in an Edinburgh pub for its Fringe run. Book now, this little gem of a show is set to steal the match.
Dorothy Max Pryor