How to give birth to a son?

There was a strong Polish accent in Narva, or rather – Uzbek-Polish in Russian, from the Ilkhom Theater in Tashkent. The play in question was “Underground Girls,” directed by Jakub Skrzywanek – known for productions such as “Mein Kampf” at the Powszechny Theater in Warsaw and “Death of John Paul II” at the Polish Theater in Poznan, artistic director of the Contemporary Theater in Szczecin and winner of the recent “Polityka” theatrical Passport.

Skrzywanek’s play about violence against women, shown in Estonia, became the target of Uzbek services and censorship attempts last year. Among others, the European Union’s representative office in Tashkent intervened.

On stage, the actresses themselves. In kitschy, televised form, they begin an instructional course showing how to maximize the chance of giving birth to a son – because, after all, giving birth to a daughter is a shame. The course is conducted by Dr. F. (the excellent Olga Volodina).

Skrzywanek made this satire on patriarchy with New York-Irish playwright Emily Reily and Polish choreographer Agnieszka Kryst. An idealized vision of a romantic relationship is shown here, staging the main plot from the movie “Titanic” in giant mask-heads. In this way, the filmmakers show how inadequate to the realities of Central Asia are the visions of love prevalent in global Anglo-Saxon pop culture. This procedure can be read at the same time as a mockery of Western artists working in realities that are foreign to them – that is, of themselves. At the same time, “Titanic” itself was reportedly a cult film in Afghanistan, for example – Kate Winslet’s character escapes from an arranged marriage, after all!

Viewers also have to confront drastic scenes here – these are primarily the recurring sounds of domestic violence, coming at unexpected moments as if from behind a wall.

Speaking of Afghanistan, the performance “Underground Girls” also refers to the situation to this country bordering Uzbekistan. Paper shreds are flying – you have to tear up your university diploma, scholarship certificates, driver’s license, erase traces that you once took part in elections, preferably that you can read and write at all. Quickly run home and change from a short dress to a niqab somewhere. These are the first moments when it’s clear that the Taliban are back in charge in the city.

One of the accusations leveled against Skrzywanek’s performance was precisely the damage to Afghan-Uzbek relations. Uzbekistan is home to more than 10,000 refugees and refugee women from Afghanistan. It was with them, among others, that the creators of the show, which, after initial troubles, is regularly performed in Uzbekistan – there have already been more than thirty shows.