Centre stage stands the poet as she recites her work, her life, to us from the dark heart of the church-cum-theatre. ‘I, Who Have Hands More Innocent’ is a riveting spiritual experience, and utterly, utterly enthralling. A compilation of the autobiographic poetry of Vesna Parun (1922 – 2010), ‘I, Who Have Hands More Innocent’ promises “chilling insight into all existential aspects of a woman’s life challenged by the patriarchal men of the Balkans” and delivers on this entirely.
Tackling all threads and channels of life, from childhood through adolescence and womanhood, grief, elation, erotics, failure and eternity ‘I, Who Have Hands More Innocent’ is universal in scope and Joycean in its fluidity. This is admittedly the first time I have heard even a line of Croatian poetry and I’m sure this will be much the same for so many at the Fringe this year, ‘I, Who Have Hands More Innocent’ is a fantastic introduction to a whole corner of the literary world which has sadly remained foreign to me until today.
Much poetry in performance can risk reduction to the sort of base clichés that swamp open-mic nights across University campuses, whether languishing in tired wordplay or repeating stories worn thin by their familiarity. This is honestly the first time that I have genuinely enjoyed poetry as a spoken event, and this is a production of which all involved should be immensely proud to present to the world.
The play, running to just over an hour, is a very simple staging with minimal props, a single actress accompanied by infrequent voice-overs, light strings, and overhead subtitles which translate the Croatian script. This is the first time that I have seen a subtitled play, and I must say that contrary to another review of the play written in ‘The List’, I found that the subtitling was well executed, clearly visible, and did not distract at all from the play. In fact, I am very grateful that the play’s verse elements were not spoken in translation but were instead kept in the original tongue, it would have been such a shame to the full oral effect of Parun’s devastating works.
Vesna Tominac Matačić’s performance is without fault and deserves much praise and attention, holding an audience’s attention whilst alone on stage is no mean feat, even more so when doing so across language barriers. An intelligent play that demands all of your attention in order to keep up with its tireless pace, you may find yourself coming back again just to fully take in the hour’s passage upon the stage. Frenetic, captivating, and sublime – ‘I, Who Have Hands More Innocent’ is my favorite show in a very long time.
image: provided by production