All Roads Lead To Rome

Chris Dobrowolski’s one man show All Roads Lead to Rome gently merges travelogue, documentary and comedy to create an entirely beguiling personal tale of possessions, loss and consumerism. “It’s not a cheap version of Top Gear” is Chris’ introduction as he enters a stage bare save for a projection screen showing a photograph of Triumph Herald (1200 Estate in case you are interested), a laptop, a fridge with a screen-less television placed on top and an old car seat.

With only projections of his Mother’s old photographs and some hand-held footage shot on the journey to distract the audience it is Dobrowolski’s warmly energetic and exasperated delivery which draws them into what is a rather unremarkable, if nevertheless interesting, story. Quickly establishing the car’s credentials – bought new when his Mother was expecting him – Dobrowolski travels initially to Milan to pay a surprise call upon the son of the designer of the Triumph Herald before retracing his Father’s journey through Italy as part of the Polish Brigade in World War II.

Monte Cassino, Rome, Predappio (Mussolini’s birthplace) and the scene of Mussolini’s public display following execution are all visited, yet despite the potentially savage route-march this appears to offer the result is rather more like a pleasant stroll with an entertaining companion.

There are some hazards on this slightly mad venture. Chris’ impersonations of his father contain some highly amusing but nevertheless post-watershed swearing – his Father learnt his English on the building site we are told – and the story of his Father’s encounter with an American corpse in a Monte Cassino fox-hole viscerally reminded the audience that the hazards his father faced could not have been deadlier, nor more removed from Chris’ own. However these moments were simply the spice in the overwhelmingly sweet enchantment of All Roads…

Dobrowolski makes his points but does not labour them and by never allowing the search for the analogy to get in the way of the anecdote he maintains a rhythm and bounce to this piece of performance art which marks him out as the rarest sort of artist; a gifted creator who can simultaneously ridicule himself whilst leaving you marvelling at both his vision and art.

Sadly this was the last ever performance of All Roads Lead to Rome but if an irreverent, funny and self-effacing approach to the world of art (and the world itself) sounds like it might be fun then the good news is that Chris’ next show Antarctica, in which he relates his time as Artist-in-Residence on the British Antarctic Survey, will be on tour this autumn. I saw Antarctica in an early performance and it is as delightful, and probably even funnier, than All Roads… It will be at the Colchester Arts Centre on November 2nd when it will be one of the ‘pay-what-you-can-afford’ performances which the Arts Centre specialises in hosting. Tickets are available now.