Review: Little Jokes in Times of War – Kings Cross Theatre (NSW)

Written and Performed by Charlotte Salusinszky

Reviewed by Charlotte Smee

Little Jokes in Times of War is a unique hour-and-a-bit of monologue that explores the impossibility of telling stories of inherited crisis. Charlotte Salusinszky writes and performs the story of her grandmother’s escape from Hungary in 1956, and the impacts this had on her grandmother, her father, her family, and herself, now, in 2022.

Kings Cross Theatre’s small space and blank walls either side of the stage were perfect for this intimate performance. Sound and AV Design by Rowan Yeomans lit up the white wall behind Charlotte with photographs of her grandmother, collages of her family and type, subtitles to Charlotte’s moments of Hungarian speaking and grainy fade-outs. Recordings of Charlotte’s grandmother trying to teach her Hungarian phrases over Charlotte’s live attempts to pronounce them were a shining moment that was later repeated in the background as the performance came to an end. The projections and sound gave depth and breadth of meaning, but also a welcoming entry point to some emotionally complex material.

Charlotte’s writing and performance are poignant, engaging, funny and well-paced. Some well-timed breaks from straight monologue included a traditional Hungarian boot-slapping dance, a pictorial summary of the Hungarian revolution, a change to grandmother Lily’s perspective, and a re-enactment of Lily’s interrogation by a Soviet soldier. Charlotte’s stories and jokes are charming and funny, and she was very aware of including all angles of the audience’s view. Some great moments of humour came from clever repetition, like when she told us all about how she “loved her Daddy, because…” over and over again.

Little Jokes in Times of War is a testament to the power and strength of women who stand in the background while men show off their boot-slapping.

After telling stores of mediocre dates, her dad, learning to dance and reenacting the history of Lily Salusinszky, we come to a scene using collages of strong Salusinszky women and text on the back wall intercut with Charlotte’s observations. Charlotte has changed from a black suit, to a grandmother Lily swimsuit and finally to a 90s style patterned jumpsuit and glittery rain boots; a costume I assume is closer to her own tastes. The use of silence while Charlotte gave us time to read about women she never knew, but still missed was beautiful. I had to stop myself from breaking out in sobs as tears fell into my mask.

Little Jokes in Times of War is a testament to the power and strength of women who stand in the background while men show off their boot-slapping. The impacts of storytelling on memory, identity and relationships are made clear by the act of telling, retelling, and showing those stories in different ways. A rare treat for those of us who tell the same stories at different parties and don’t know how to feel about our distant refugee grandmothers.

Reviewer Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Little Jokes in Times of War played at the Kings Cross Theatre from March 16th-26th 2022. More information on what’s coming up at KXT Theatre can be found here. You can also follow them on Instagram @kxt_bakehouse

CREATIVES
Written and Performed by Charlotte Salusinszky
Presented by Shopfront Arts Co-op in association with KXT – Kings X Theatre

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