The Card Index and Recycling by Tadeusz Rozewicz

Part of the Polish Cultural Institute's Rozewicz Festival 2001

THE CARD INDEX 29th May - 17th June 2001
The White Bear Theatre, Kennington, London SE11.


'a surreal joyride through history, culpability and memory.'

'The cast are superb and directed with tangible passion'

'The Card Index was written in 1960, but the play on show is so startlingly modern, so challenging and so relentlessly hilarious it makes you wonder what writers - and audiences, of course - have been doing in the theatre for the last 40 years.'

The Card Index, KARTOTEKA (in Polish)a play by Tadeusz Rozewicz was staged at the White Bear Theatre by Brit-Pol Theatre Company in May 2001. Translated into English by Adam Czerniawski with additional scenes translated by Barbara Plebanek and Tony Howard. It ran for three weeks to packed houses and critical acclaim. Brit-Pol Theatre also staged a premiere reading of Rozewicz's new work - RECYCLING, translated by Barbara Plebanek and Tony Howard at the Riverside Studios. Again this production was very well recieved.

We are pleased to say, without boasting that we have successfully introduced Rozewicz to contemporary audiences in London.

Here are the programme notes - the cast list and Rozewicz's biography and the reviews of the production.

The Card Index is and is not autobiographical; Rozewicz likes contradictions. The play is, however, rooted in the life of the author. Born in 1921, Rozewicz's education was truncated a year before the second world war broke out. His father, a minor official, could not afford to keep him in school. During the war Rozewicz fought in the Polish resistance. Afterwards, his writing turned away from traditional forms. He maintained his creativity despite the constraints of the Stalinist regime in Poland. In 1959, when Rozewicz wrote The Card Index, he needed to exorcise the ghosts and memories of his generation.

In 1993, I directed a show about Tadeusz Rozewicz and had the good fortune to have supper with him afterwards. He asked me why The Card Index had not been produced professionally in Britain. I said one day I would do it. When I set up Brit-Pol Theatre to produce Polish Theatre in English, this was the first full production I wanted to do. I had always been struck by the modern feel of Rozewicz's work. I knew that it was particularly Polish, but felt that it had universal appeal as he writes about things that continue to affect us all.

When Rozewicz visited our rehearsals recently, we were charmed by his mischievous humour. He could not resist adding a few new ideas to the production, including the red nail polish on the secretary's toes!

Director - Peter Czajkowski

The builders
had left a vertical opening in the wall
I sometimes think
my home is too conventional
all sorts of people
can easily get in

From THE DOOR by Tadeusz Rozewicz.
Translated by Adam Czerniawski.

CAST LIST AND PERSONNEL for the 2001 production.
CAST in order of speaking:
The Hero - Paul Mooney
Mother, Olga, Fat Woman, Journalist - Tina Jones
Father, Fatso the dog owner, Old Miner - Martin Bendel
Female in Bed & Secretary - Justine Koos
The Chorus of Elders:
Elder & Peasant Crow - Peter Luke Kenny
Elder & Official with Cap - Darryl Knock
Elder & Official with Hat - David Brett
Uncle & Teacher - Seamus Newham
Man with Parting, Waiter, Youth, Reporter - Lawrence McGrandles Jnr.
Waitress, Lively Lady, German Girl - Sarah Rutherford

Director - Peter Czajkowski
Designer - Steve Wilson
Lighting Designer - Mark Doubleday
Original Music - Warren Wills
Associate Director - Tina Jones
Costume supervisor - Rodney Worth
Stage manager & lx operator & asst. to director - Elizabeth Maddison
Additional translation - Barbara Plebanek & Tony Howard
Assistant director - Jonathan Heron
White Bear Artistic Director - Michael Kingsbury
Press & Marketing - Katy Hadwick at The Polish Cultural Institute.



'Entering the politically and dramatically seismic world of poet, playwright and Polish resistance fighter Tadeusz Rozewicz is an experience that everyone should undergo at least once. And Brit-Pol Theatre's loving production of his best known play is as powerful an example of his dangerous, deliriously absurd work as you are likely to come across for a long while. The Hero of the play lies in bed with a woman, and his job is to be entertaining. But it is a Sunday; he doesn't feel like getting out of bed, and he doesn't feel much like talking either. His memories, however, which span a childhood in 1920s Poland, the Nazi occupation, and the communist regime which followed it, ensure that he will talk, because the past will not be silent. At the insistence of three insanely ghoulish Elders who emerge from the wardrobe and wheeze, whistle and vomit their way through their lines like a broken set of bag-pipes, the hero sorts through his life, aided by the appearance of various friends and officials, alive and long-dead.

There is nothing redemptive about Rozewicz's play. Time and the unity of character that reminiscence usually brings are smashed beyond all recognition in this ferocious, surreal joyride through history, culpability and memory. By the end, we are not even sure of our Hero's name, let alone his nationality. The cast are superb and are directed with tangible passion by Peter Czajkowski. 'The Card Index' was written in 1960, but the play on show is so startlingly modern, so challenging and so relentlessly hilarious it makes you wonder what writers - and audiences, of course - have been doing in the theatre for the last 40 years.'

(Lucy Powell - TIME OUT.)


The Eastern Europeans are maestros of miserabilism. They can turn common or garden gloom into epic comedies of self-absorption. Or, in the case of Polish writer Tadeusz Rozewicz's 1960 absurdist drama, a hectic bedroom farce of self absorption.
Rozewicz's delirious play is about a man who cannot get out of bed. He is an Everyman aged between nought and 40. The traffic of people through his grotty boudoir turns it into a busy cattle market. Amidst the hubbub, he claims to be "having difficulty turning into a human being" and is in the grip of extreme psychological alienation. He looks at his hand as if it were someone else's and, amazed at his ability to control it, plunges it under the sheets to massage his flagging libido.
A product of the post-war period, following Nazi occupation and Stalinist rule, Rozewicz's riotously iconoclastic play has no truck with classical convention. Although he employs a self-righteous chorus who emerge from the hero's closet, Rozewicz soon has his hero kill them off - having first failed to kill himself. At a personal level - with his bickering with parents and dismissing lovers - the play is the fantastical daydream of a shambolic idler. At a political level - where he is harassed by meddling bureaucrats and wounded partisans - it is a sinister nightmare reflecting Polish history. Nor is Rozewicz above ridiculing Germans on the way - particularly as his brother was murdered by the Gestapo in 1944.

Peter Czajkowski's direction and Adam Czerniawski's translation not only recapture the original spirit of the Theatre of the Absurd, they also re-cast Rozewicz's play in a contemporary British idiom. Steve Wilson's dingy design is off-set by Mark Doubleday's urine-coloured lighting. An ensemble of 10 creates a chaotic procession of characters who would be tiresomely capricious, but for the innate comedy of the situation and the variety of the acting. Paul Mooney's hero is a steady dramatic locus as an exhausted, indolent, anxious, guilty spectator on his own life. He is inclined to agree with the character who says "people are a herd of animals slithering on shit".
The brilliance of Czajkowski's production is that it milks the pathos and comedy of this farmyard formulation for a post-BSE generation.'

(Patrick Marmion EVENING STANDARD)



Tadeusz Rozewicz is unique in his effortless mastery of both poetry and drama. He was born in 1921 in Radomsko, Poland. He fought in the underground Home Army during the Nazi occupation and began publishing with the clandestine press. After the war he studied art history in Krakow and his first book of poetry, Anxiety, appeared in 1947. He set himself the task of reinventing literature in the face of a brutality that seemed to have devalued everything, including words themselves, for an audience of survivors: "We learnt language from scratch, these people and I." His stark, stripped, honest poetry, distrusting every trace of rhetoric, was quickly recognised as one of the key moral voices of post-war European literature. He has published well over twenty volumes of poetry, including Open Poem (1957), Conversation with the Prince (1960), Traumatic Stories,1979), Miscellaneous Poems,1983), always a fragment (1996), recycling (1998) and Smiles (2000).

In the early 1960s Tadeusz Rozewicz also established himself as one of the most innovative post-war dramatists. The Card Index (1960), an absurdist social satire, has been called Eastern Europe's Waiting for Godot. It was filmed by Krzysztof Kieslowski in 1979. In The Card Index Rozewicz presents us with a modern Everyman - a guilty Hamlet who can't get out of bed - and who hilariously yet painfully pulls his life to pieces before our eyes. At one and the same moment he has half a dozen names and a dozen histories - he is an artist, a freedom fighter, a nonentity, a philosopher, and a little boy: "The hero is five, twenty-five and forty years old. We accept the convention of The Card Index at once, from the very first line... as if it were the only one, the natural form for the theatre." (Jan Kott )

His other, ceaselessly experimental, plays include Marriage Blanc (1975), the anti-heroic war play Dead and Buried (1979) - which provoked national controversies both during and after the Communist era - and The Trap (1984) a haunting study of Kafka. His other writing includes essays - especially theatrical and literary theory and fiction. He has been translated into forty languages and performed all over the world.

In his seventies Tadeusz Rozewicz entered a new period of intense creativity. Alongside recycling, his most recent works include the play The Card Index Scattered (1995), and the prose memoir Mother's Going Away (1999) for which he won the prestigious Nike 2000 prize. He lives in Wroclaw, Poland.

20 May, Sunday
4pm, Riverside Studios
A dramatised reading of recycling performed by
Peter Czajkowski, Martin Lindasy & Tina Jones of Brit-Pol Theatre
- with an introduction by the author, Tadeusz Rozewicz.

now nobody can recall
the weight of a human tear
the price of tears is falling on the stock exchange
panic in the market..."

RECYCLING - new poems that consider the nature of art, writing, and Time. The core of the book is the title sequence recycling, a three-part meditation on modern history. Here Rozewicz, who has called himself "the poet of the rubbish dump", draws together apparently random scraps of fact, rumour and misinformation - sifting through the debris of the world's mass media - and creates a collage epic, a black-comic portrait of our time and ourselves. Tragic and witty by turns, as immediate as this morning's headlines, recycling is one of the most powerful recent achievements of the poet who has been called "the chronicler of the twentieth century".

RECYCLING is published by ARC Publishers - see Link on LINKS page.