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HomeNewsArmley theatre company tackles big issues with play about blind Polish grandad

Armley theatre company tackles big issues with play about blind Polish grandad

An Armley-based theatre company is set to tour its new production to key venues in Yorkshire.

Jadek – which is Polish for ‘Grandfather’ – is a semi-autobiographical story of its writer Francesca Joy, who in her 20s moved in with her blind 94-year-old Polish grandad.  

The play, produced by the Imagine If company, explores how this unexpected turn of events affected both their lives. It also looks at racism, xenophobia and fear against a backdrop of Brexit.

Francesca Joy as Tasha and Piotr Baumann as Grandad in Jadek.
Photo by Anthony Robling

Founding Artistic Director of Imagine If, Francesca Joy, spent ten years living in Armley. She says that living there help shaped her outlook – and her latest play:

Jadek is about blindness, not just physically, but metaphorically. I believe some places are valued more than others. There’s a lot of good people doing good things in Armley, Interplay Theatre for instance, but the area needs funding from the Government. It often isn’t valued.

Jadek is loosely based on my relationship with my grandad, who is my absolute superhero.

“I was touring and afterwards had nowhere to live, so it made sense to go and live with him. It changed the way I saw the arts and ultimately, how I saw the world. It was beautiful, hilarious and heartbreaking.

“When a child grows up in a family of violence, they experience the same brain patterns as a solider at war. I left home at 14 – me and my grandad both grew up as soldiers. He taught me how to stand up for what I believe in.”

In the play, grandad found a home in Yorkshire in 1945 after spending six years fighting and surviving World War Two.

He likes a whisky and hates the ventilation in his front room. Every morning he opens his eyes and a sorrowful “bloody hell” escapes his lips as he realises he’s still blind.

Tasha found a home at her grandad’s house after spending what felt like most of her life at war; she drinks way too much beer, has moved house over 30 times, and is trying to sell her children’s storybook to London publishers.

Francesca said:

“The theatre we create is based on the world around us comprising real stories from real people. We aim to create work that is inspiring, entertaining, thought provoking and unashamedly honest for intimate audiences

Jadek parallels a lot of what is happening with Brexit and Trump now. There are also parallels with the segregation of cultures, xenophobia and the fear of World War Two repeating itself.

“How is this still happening? I still hear a lot of racism – people don’t know I’m half Polish.

Jadek is for the broken ones, those who’ve fought wars, the blind, the Polish, the working class, the ones suffering in silence. This is for every single one of you. And as always, this is for my old man, my grandad, my Jadek.”

Yorkshire’s own BAFTA award winning writer Mark Catley [EastEnders, Casualty, Call the Midwife] is working with Francesca as an advisor on the piece. He said:

Jadek is a beautiful story that starts small and ends up universal. The dialogue between grandfather and granddaughter is so entertaining you’ll want to move in too. The revelations are breath-taking.”

Taking the role of Grandad is Piotr Baumann – an established Polish actor who has just spent a year on Coronation Street as roofer Jan Lozinski.

“I’m delighted to be working with Francesca and Imagine If” said Piotr “Jadek reminds me of growing up with my father in Poland.”

Jadek is audio described for those with visual impairments and Imagine If is working extensively with blind/visually impaired communities and those with Polish heritage in each of the regions on the tour.

Imagine If

Imagine If is an Armley-based theatre company and charity founded in 2014. It tours new writing to theatres and prisons across the UK.

Francesca Joy is a trained actor, writer and producer and uses her first-hand experience to inform the art the company creates and is passionate about working with those under-represented in the arts.

Francesca uses theatre to engage with prisoners, improve their lives and ultimately reduce reoffending and recently worked in America with Tim Robbins [Shawshank Redemption] and his company The Actors’ Gang.

She has worked with young adults in care and recovering addicts, engaging them in theatre to enable them to rewrite their story and ultimately make active change in their lives and has raised over a £250,000 for Imagine If to work with disadvantaged people through the arts.

Jadek is on tour from October 16th to December 4th 2019. It’s in Leeds at Slung Low and Holbeck Working Mens’ Club on November 17.

For more information and full tour details visit the Imagine If website.

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