Playreadings & New Voices in Polish Theatre: 1.Country House 2. To Steal A March on God 3.Farrago
1.COUNTRY HOUSE by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy)
A playreading at the White Bear Theatre, Kennington, London SE11 on Monday 13th November 2001 at 7.30pm.
Country House written by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, a prolific writer of the inter-war Polish avant-garde. Witkiewicz's work directly influenced theatre directors such as Kantor, Szajna and Grotowski. Witkiewicz himself discovered and encouraged the Polish writer Bruno Schultz and anyone who has seen Theatre de Complicite's Street of Crocodiles will have been a witness to Polish literature inspiring a piece of modern British theatre.
THE FATHER: DIAPHANT NEARLY - David Quilter. HIS TWO DAUGHTERS: SOPHIE, 12 Caroline Wildi & AMY, 13 - Elaine Wallace. THE COUSIN, JIBBERY PENBROKE - Richard Sandells. HIS COUSIN (& Mrs. Nearlys)ANETTE WARBLING - Eunice Roberts. THE MOTHER'S GHOST: ANASTASIA NEARLY, nee WARBLING - Tina Jones.
TWO BAILIFFS:WENDELL POUNDWOOD - Colin Gourlay & JOSEPH GRISWOLD - Jonathan Lermit. THE COOK: URSULA FUSTY - Jane Lucas. THE SCULLERY BOY, MICHAEL BUMPTER - Tim Mills. DIRECTED BY Peter Czajkowski.
TRANSLATED BY Daniel Gerould. PUBLISHED BY HARWOOD ACADEMIC PUBLISHERS.Part of The Polish Theatre Archive.
Country House (W Malym Dworku) is a wicked subversion of all those realistic psychological dramas of jealousy, adultery, murder and suicide that ask to be taken seriously. Witkacy's send-up assumes the form of a ghost story, in the course of which a family of four is gleefully dispatched to the other world. When it was first performed in 1923 in Torun, the play was presented only twice at the end of a season of experimental work for connoisseurs. Because it derides convention - moral, social and dramatic - Country House was judged unsuitable for the general public, and special arrangements were made so that no students or young people would be admitted. Three years later, as directed by the playwright himself in Lwow, the drama proved an unexpected success with audiences and ever since has been among Witkacy's most frequently performed works. Today we can appreciate Country House not only as a systematic demolition of stage realism, but also as an anxious probing of the elusive boundaries between life and death, exposing the "dark places" of the human psyche that make us laugh nervously. It is still frighteningly modern.
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz - 'Witkacy' is an outstanding figure of Poland's inter-war avant-garde culture. He committed suicide on the day the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland. Re-discovered by the Polish experimental theatre directors of the post-war period his works remain an essential part of both the classical theatre and the modern experimental repertoire. His life and writings inspired the work of Kantor, Szajna and Grotowski - and many others. He has been called the 'patron-saint' of post-war Polish theatre and yet he is largely unknown to the British audiences.
The translator - Daniel Gerould is Lucille Lortel Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature at the City University of New York Graduate School. He is Editor of Slavic and East European Performance, and has also translated and edited numerous books and articles of avant-garde Polish and Russian drama.
THE PERSONALITY OF Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, embraces a whole series of creative activities that make him a unique figure in Polish and European culture between the two World Wars. Dramatist, poet, novelist, painter, photographer, art theorist (from 1919 onwards he was one of the most representative members of the poetic and artistic avant-garde in Poland, together with Witold Gombrowicz and Bruno Schulz, and a supporter of Formalism), and last but not least an acute and eccentric philosopher: this multitude of interests sums up a restless spirit who is difficult to classify in the usual categories. Witkiewicz was a radical critic of bourgeois society and the kind of social existence generated by capitalism and communism, both of which he feared would lead to the complete dehumanisation of social life and a growing totalitarianism, with the consequent annihilation of the individual personality.
2.TO STEAL A MARCH ON GOD BY Hannah Krall
TO STEAL A MARCH ON GOD
Brit-Pol Theatre presented this ’memory’ play by Hanna Krall based on the life of Marek Edelman – survivor of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Edelman was deputy commander of the Uprising. He escaped through the sewers with the help of the Polish Resistance and later fought in the Warsaw Uprising. After the war, he went to live in Israel but could not settle, so returned to Poland where he became an eminent cardiologist. This is a documentary drama based on two sets of testaments from Marek Edelman. The young Marek’s words are taken his book: The Ghetto Fights, written in 1945. The older Edelman’s words are based on a series of interviews he gave to Hanna Krall in 1977. From those interviews she wrote a best selling book, To Steal A March on God, then adapted it into this play, which was first staged in Warsaw in 1980.
The reading was produced with the kind permission of The Tonda Marton Agency USA, representing Hanna Krall and the translator Jadwiga Kosicka.
CAST in order of speaking
Dr Marek Edelman 1977 – Leonard Fenton
Young Marek 1943 – Colin Gourlay
The Ghetto Fighters:
Zygmunt – Tim Mills
Stasiek – Richard Sandells
Celina – Caroline Wildi
Adam – David Quilter
Boy with Biscuits – David Quilter
Joachim’s Daughter – Tina Jones
Professor – David Quilter
Dr. Wróbel – Tina Jones
Directed by Peter Czajkowski
In 1977, after the Ghetto Uprising remembrance ceremony Edelman remembers incidents from 1943.
His younger self returns and Edelman revisits his past. Later, in the hospital where he works, consequences of his past come back in flesh and blood. All the characters who appear in the play and all the events described are authentic.
TO STEAL A MARCH ON GOD – a ‘memory play’.
At the end of the war Marek Edelman, former deputy commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and one of its few survivors, emigrated to Israel. Failing to adjust to life there, he returned to Poland to pursue a career in medicine, eventually becoming an internationally known cardiologist. Because he could not romanticise the Uprising and play the hero Edelman stopped attending the annual commemorative celebrations. Rather than try to tell the world unwelcome truths he chose to be silent. In 1977 Dr Edelman broke a thirty year silence and agreed to do a series of interviews with the young Polish Jewish journalist Hanna Krall. She turned these conversations into the best-selling book To Steal a March on God. The title refers to the constant vigilance needed to forestall the punishing blows of a mighty adversary. The play, written the following year, takes as its source these interviews as well as Edelman’s 1945 memoirs, The Ghetto Fights. First performed in May 1980 at the Popular Theatre, Warsaw, To Steal a March on God is an original documentary drama that recreates the history of the Uprising through the dual vision of a youthful participant and a mature survivor. It offers the double portrait of a truly heroic twentieth-century anti-hero interrogating himself. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in which 1,500 largely untrained Jewish fighters battled well-equipped German units began on April 19th 1943 and lasted 22 days. By the end of the Uprising almost all the Jews had been killed. Marek Edelman, one of the five commanders , was responsible for the ‘Brush-makers district’ of the Ghetto. Assisted by the Polish underground he escaped from the Ghetto on May 9th 1943, through the sewers and consequently took part in the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. Making use of fluid chronology Krall’s play mingles past with present and follows the stream of memory. The events of the Uprising from April 19 to May 10, 1943 are treated as free-floating recollections subject to repeated authentication.
HANNA KRALL – writer
Born in Warsaw in 1937 and trained as a journalist, she worked as a reporter for ‘Polityka’ and specialises in describing the everyday lives and situations of apparently ordinary people. In her best-known book, To Steal A March On God (1977) she applies the technique of a double time-frame. She used the same technique in two novels, the semi-autobiographical The Subtenant (1982) and Windows (1985). To Steal A March On God introduced Jewish subjects to her writing; this continued in The Subtenant and in Hypnosis and Dancing at Someone Else's Wedding. The main theme is the intertwining of human fates; the stories mostly concern the search for identity and the complicated Polish-Jewish-German relations of World War II and the years immediately following the war, including the tragic events of 1968, often with a deeper background in the history of a given family or locality.
JADWIGA KOSICKA – translator
Born and educated in Poland, Jadwiga Kosicka worked at the Polish Academy in Warsaw before moving to the United States in the 1970s. She has translated many books and plays and is the author of A Life of Solitude, a biographical study of Stanis³awa Przybyszewska.
TO STEAL IS MARCH ON GOD is published by HARWOOD ACADEMIC PUBLISHERS as part of THE POLISH THEATRE ARCHIVE edited by Daniel Gerould.
In the spring of 1943, the Uprising lasted a month but only the first six days from April 19 to 24 were effective, whilst the Ghetto fighters still had ammunition. Then the Nazis brought in tanks and artillery and finally set fire to the entire Ghetto. It was all over by May 16th. Most fighters were killed. A few, like Celina and Edelman were helped to escape through the sewers by the Polish Underground.
3. A new voice in Polish theatre: FARRAGO by Lidia Amejko
Written by Lidia Amejko this play - farrago played at the Dramatyczny Teatr in Warsaw in 2001 - and is a metaphysical comedy involving the hell-raising actor - FARRAGO arriving in heaven after a drunken binge and a car crash... yet he is blissfully unaware of his situation. His Excellency has never met an actor before.
FARRAGO - EDWARD DE SOUZA
HIS EXCELLENCY - MIKE BURNSIDE
ST. PETER - DAVID QUILTER
DIRECTED BY PETER CZAJKOWSKI
AT THE WHITE BEAR THEATRE
NOVEMBER 25TH 2001
TRANSLATED BY DOROTA GLOWACKA