Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a number of Scots farmers emigrated to Poland to manage and improve the farms owned by Polish aristocrats. In the early twenty first century, a number of British farmers are migrating to Poland in the hope of a better agricultural climate (pun intentional) In between, of course, numerous Poles have settled in the British Isles, both in the aftermath of World War Two and now.
The history lesson has a bearing on Henry Adam's play, ''e Polish Quine', set somewhere in the Mearns (between Angus and Aberdeen) immediately after the Second World War. David (Fraser C. Sivewright) returns to his parent's farm, vaguely hoping to cure his weariness of soul through physical work. His friend Tim (Douglas Russell) sees politics as a cure for the world's ills, though his optimism fails to carry either man through to a brighter tomorrow. The sole ray of sunshine and hope in this driech setting is provided by Anna (Magadalena Kaleta), 'e Polish Quine of the title (the play is largely in Doric Scots). Anna has arrived with her family, who lease Pitfoddie, a farm David's sister Kate (Sarah Haworth) and her fiancée, Rob (Douglas Russell again) had set their hearts on for themselves.
Dealing with disappointment looms large in this play - David's parents (Hamish Wilson and Anne Kidd) have sacrificed to give him an education only for him to return to the farm, and to take up with a Polish 'quine'. The problem is that both text and sub-texts all but collapse under the layered richness of the Doric dialogue. Kate's fiancée encounters Anna early in the play and attempts to rape her, David's intervention being the beginning of their friendship. David remains out of reach throughout the play, alienated from his parents, from Anna and the world, with only the barest hint of hope left as the lights dim. Men suffer and women suffer because they do isn't enough to hold an audience together through over two hours traffic on the stage, and by the second act some were clearly becoming restive.
Even in its livelier moments, 'e Polish Quine has a ponderous feel, and surprisingly for a play set on a farm, we have no sense of time really passing, of the seasons changing, the remorseless passage of nature and the need to plant and harvest in spite of weather conditions, human or other considerations. Doric sayings are rooted in harsh, everyday realities, belied in the lyricism of Henry Adams' script.
A strong cast makes the very best of the opportunities they are given while simple and effective setting allows the action to flow. A considerable collection from the ballad and song tradition of North East Scotland is used to punctuate the action, as are several Polish folk songs. The reasons for their use in specific scenes is not, however, always clear. Nonetheless, there's something very heartfelt trying to express itself at the core of Henry Adams' play; unfortunately on the night seen, it appeared to be still struggling to be heard.