Marin Sorescu’s 'Jonah', the Elegiac Parable of Human Condition, at the RCI

18 - 19/05/2017 @ Romanian Cultural Institute, 1 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PH

Arguably the most celebrated monologue of Romanian theatre gets a brilliant makeover in a new production staged specially for our increasingly popular theatrical space. Directed by American Sharon Willems and starring Romanian actor Alin Balaşcan, the performance preserves the signature balance between lyricism and irony so characteristic to the great poet and playwright Marin Sorescu (1936-1996) while offering a highly contemporary take, full of imagery and humour, of the story of the prophet-fisherman caught in the belly of the huge fish. A most relevant and irreverent mediation on freedom, destiny, life and death.   

The play is presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in collaboration with the UK theatre company Kibo Productions.


"There should be a grid at the entrance to every soul. So no one can get inside it with a knife." (Marin Sorescu)


By: Marin Sorescu
Translation: Andrea Deletant and Brenda Walker
Director: Sharon Willems
With: Alin Balaşcan
Visuals by: Cristian Luchian

The show will be performed in English.


Prolific Romanian poet, playwright, novelist and essayist, nonconformist explorer of existential uncertainties and  the absurdity of human condition, Marin Sorescu's ironic voice emerged in Romanian literature in the 1960s. Sorescu's first book, 'Singur printre poeţi' (1964) ('Alone Among Poets'), was a collection of poetic parodies and pastiches of conventional lyrical expressions. The work was an immediate success. It was followed by 'Poeme. Versuri. Parodii', 1965 ('Poems. Verses. Parodies'), 'Moartea ceasului', 1966 ('The Death of the Clock'), 'Poeme', 1967 ('Poems'), and 'Tinerețea lui Don Quijote', 1968 ('Don Quijote's Tender Years'). His existentialist themes, at the same time universal and subjective, placed his work into the wide context of the avant-garde. With 'Iona', 1968 ('Jonah'), written at the beginning of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s reign, 'Paracliserul', 1970 ('The Verger') and 'Matca', 1973 ('The Matrix'), all three constructed on the themes of creation and destruction, Sorescu established his reputation as a major modern playwright. The trilogy was published in the UK for the first time in 1985 under the title 'The Thirst of the Salt Mountain'.

Although Sorescu's dramas drew full houses, they were soon deemed controversial and withdrawn by the censorship. In the 1970s, Sorescu started to write historical dramas in the Brechtian Epic-dramatic style. "For the playwright, history is like a bone to a dog," Sorescu was writing in the preface to 'Vlad Dracula, the Impaler' (1978). Throughout the1980s his literature was heavily censored. After the 1989 Revolution 'Censored Poems' was printed - a collection featuring one of the author’s masterpieces, 'House Under Surveillance'. In self-mockery Marin Sorescu was saying about his writing: "I can't give up smoking just because I don't smoke, and I can't give up writing just because I have no talent."

Throughout his career Sorescu received several awards, including the Romanian Writers' Union Prize in 1965, 1968, and 1974, the International Poetry Festival Gold Medal, Naples (1969), the Romanian Academy Prize, first time in 1970 and then several other times, the Poetry Prize of the Academia delle Muze, Florence (1978), the International Fernando Riello Prize, Madrid (1983), the Herder Prize, Austria (1991). In 1983 Sorescu became a corresponding member of the Mallarmé Academy and in 1991 he became a member of the Romanian Academy. Marin Sorescu was Romania's Nobel Prize nominee in 1996, the year he died of liver cancer at the age of 60.  


Sharon Willems is the artistic director of Kibo Productions and previously directed Kibo's five-star production of Tea Set by Gina Moxley (The White Bear/Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh) starring Amy Molloy. Prior to this Sharon directed the UK Première of Birthday by Brooklyn-based playwright Crystal Skillman (Waterloo East Theatre/Camden Fringe) and wrote the foreword for the subsequent Samuel French publication. She has curated several new writing events for Kibo Productions and this summer will work with award-winning playwright, Jaki McCarrick (Leopoldville, PapaTango Prize) to develop Tussy, a new work on the life of feminist revolutionary Eleanor Marx. Sharon is also a freelance director and dramaturg and has worked across London on new writing for Little Pieces of Gold, The Off Cut Festival, Papa Tango Theatre Company, and Salt Theatre Company. Say hello on twitter @kiboproductions and visit for more information.


Alin Balaşcan is a young Romanian actor who, after having studied at the prestigious East 15 Acting School in London, followed a short training in Shakespeare's Works with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare's Globe. He played Angus in 'Macbeth' while at the SG under the direction of the acclaimed Joanne Howarth. He then went on studying Harold Pinter's works at The Cockpit Theatre where he starred in 'Night' and 'No Man's Land'. In 2013 he made his West End debut in the spectacular production of 'In the Beginning Was the End' at Somerset House, in a double role for which he was mentioned by several publications including The Guardian. He was also part of the first production of Saviana Stănescu's 'Aliens with Extraordinary Skills' in London at Leicester Square Theatre. In 2016, Alin played several roles in Immersive Theatre's celebratory production of Tristan Tzara's plays at the Romanian Cultural Institute in London. Currently he is working towards his debut in International Film&TV.

The performances are part of the Museums at Night programme. Museums at Night


When: Thursday 18 May & Friday 19 May @ 7pm
WhereRomanian Cultural Institute - 1 Belgrave Square London SW1X 8PH

Entrance is free but it is required to book your ticket on Eventbrite - HERE for 18 May and HERE for 19 May
Please note that the seating is unreserved.