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I “Wyjeżdżamy” (“We are leaving”) – dir. Krzysztof Warlikowski – Nowy Teatr in Warsaw

13 years after the premiere of “Krum,” Krzysztof Warlikowski is coming back to Hanoch Levin’s oeuvre. Krum comes back to his homeland following unsuccessful exile abroad, full of hope for accomplishment. Now, these days, everyone wants to leave somewhere.

The great human migration in Levin’s piece finds its local face and scale, reflecting all of the concerns and moves in the macro scale. A rebellion is in store – a rebellion of maturity against the appropriation of the territory of freedom and our life being pulled into the mechanisms of peace at the cost of submission.

In the “Comedy with eight funerals,” the journey usually leads to the other world. Despite the one-way ticket, the willingness to leave does not subside. However, is it really that life is somewhere else? Is it not better and wiser to commit to building a community? Is it the time of Romantic gestures or Positivistic work for the common prosperity?

From a review:

“We are leaving” features a twisted and exhausted micro-community with a history that is hard to fathom. The weirdness of this community is that it exists in spite of everything. The more funerals, occurring at an increasing pace, the faster it should exhaust itself. Nevertheless, everyone is drawn towards another human being. No matter what. Warlikowski’s intriguing idea is the screen over the stage showing private pictures of actors from their youth. The pictures are displayed when related characters die and funeral speeches are read to commemorate them. This is also a kind of joint reflection by the actors so closely connected with their director, bringing the question of death onto the private level. To some extent, they are made equal to each other in their sense of being a team. Everyone has a role to play and an opportunity for a star performance – however, something else is of greater importance here. It can also be seen in the ironic final part delivered by the group of actors.

Everything seems obvious when in one of the final scenes, in which Mrs. Dani Gelernter (fantastic rendition by Jacek Poniedziałek) meets the deceased parents and utters the very important statement: “Everybody who has stood between me and the death, have died. Nothing separates me from it anymore.” Krum had returned and then left nowhere. He just watched others leave and was probably well aware that this was pointless. This Krum has ample experience, but Jacek Poniedziałek wears a baseball cap like a teenager who is impressed to watch his older friends make important decisions. Does this story about life and death have a proper beginning and an end? Maybe it is just that there are no departures and returns in the first place? Maybe it is just that the only place where we exist in is ourselves and the couple of people around us? And this is the only thing that matters.

Przemysław Skrzydelski, Do Rzeczy

The commentary for “We are leaving” says that, in adapting the original piece, the director also used passages of other Levin’s plays and incorporated passages of “Nigdy już tu nie powrócę” by Tadeusz Kantor, “Rzeczy, których nie wyrzuciłem” by Marcin Wicha and “Życie osobiste” by Henryk Grynberg. However, in the 3.5-hour show, Poland just resounds in the distant background, only – in the climate, moods and, at times, in allusions. Bella Szuster (Magdalena Popławska) plans a trip to London. She has no illusions that her life will be better there; after all, nobody is waiting for a girl coming from the other end of the world there, but – as she explains, and the audience bursts into laughter – at least television will be better. The American traveller Angela Hopkins (Magdalena Cielecka), travelling “the middle of the Middle East,” as she informs the fans of her vlog – can be eventually seen in a video riding a taxi down the streets of the former ghetto and right to the Chopin Airport. Following his brother’s death, Motke Czkori (Marek Kalita) delivers a funeral speech and transforms from a womanizer and a bodger into the head of the family and a self-proclaimed community leader.

Similarly as previous shows from Warlikowski, “We are leaving” is an international coproduction and needed to be intelligible to the audiences in France, Switzerland and at the Greek Festival in Athens. This is why universal themes prevail. The absurdity of human existence, marked by the great effort, disappointments, attempts at escaping one’s roots, the quest for happiness and fulfilment away from the family home, as well as dreams and the lack of the sense of accomplishment. And in the end comes death – probably the only chance for the real “departure,” one more irony of fate that Levin’s protagonists sense very well (…).

The action is scarce, the rhythm sleepy, and the dramatic motor is hardly there – just as in life. The funerals make the refrain that comes between verses of family arguments and reconciliations, and the attempts to leave and returns. In the first scene, Szabtaj Szuster (Zygmunt Malanowicz) dies during a failed defecation, others – “while having a soup,” making love (Alberto Pinkus, the local womanizer – Andrzej Chyra) or of brain tumour at the age of 28, leaving wives, children and mothers behind.

Displayed on the large screen, the obituaries are accompanied by actors’ private photos. At the end, everyone is dancing together to some mellow music. In this attempt to domesticate death, some viewers have noticed an allusion to Alan Ball’s outstanding series “Six Feet Under.” Others claim that Warlikowski stirs a reflection similar to the mother of Danny (Jacek Poniedziałek), Henia (Ewa Dałkowska), who keeps telling him that she is going to die soon, and he will realize what a treasure she was only after her death. Let’s enjoy the community we, the artists and audiences, make as we do not know how long it will last.

Aneta Kyzioł, Polityka

Everyone is standing in one colourful row, with their backs facing the audience. In one row and together – those who have for 3,5 hours played people involved in disputes, arguments, sometimes fighting with each other on the tit-for-tat basis, on the word-for-word basis. Do they leave? Not at all. They are here, both the dead and the living. They return. They go towards us, towards the audience. They subvert the rules of the game. They ridicule us. They are beautiful. Some 20 of them. They are young or not quite young anymore, men and women. Our brethren. They are arrogant and sarcastic, and armed with strawberry-coloured lollipops. They are modest and provocative, joyful and in despair.

The final chorus line is applauded by the enthusiastic and excited audience, as if mirroring the actors. They are us, after all – we have recognized ourselves in them. They have told us: “we are leaving” rather than “we are disappearing” or “vanishing.” They carefully arrived at the conclusion that it is better to leave. Without crying or agitation. “He has passed away,” they say about those who died – this is the hypocrisy operating deep within the society that Krzysztof Warlikowski’s extraordinary show rests on. He had not left. He has returned. He has returned to one of the most interesting inspirations – the oeuvre of the Israeli writer, who keeps teaching and moving us nearly 20 years after his premature death at the age of 55. Hanoch Levin. His profound awareness and ridicule do not cease to amaze us. It is impossible to forget “Krum.” Ectoplasmic “Krum,” as the writer would say. This was one of the best performances by young Warlikowski and his young actors. Krum left for the world outside to make fortune and had just dirty cloths in his suitcase as he went back to his mother.

A suitcase or a coffin? The original title of Hanoch Levin’s play is “Suitcase Packers.” It was written in 1983 with a subtitle “A Comedy with Eight Funerals.” They have come. Their backs are facing us, too. They stand in a place separated from the floor of the ball room, the main stage of sorts, behind a low glass pane. Difference and repetition.

A suitcase at hand is a suitcase of a man endangered, who is being chased. The suitcase of Jewish families at the time of war. All witnesses have spoken of those suitcases. On the wardrobe. In hands […].

Warlikowski speaks of his own country, here and now. He speaks of the ruling party, which constantly fights the most original artists. It fights the structures. On the stage of the well-known theatre Domaine d’O, during the French premiere of this amazing play, Polish actors do not limit themselves to their characters. They are themselves. Their real selves. They are threatened by the dead silence. One could speak endlessly about the outstanding and unbelievably funny play – you can hear laugher again and again; it is equally funny and frightening. Paralyzing. Israel in 1970-90; Jews in Europe during the last war; Israel consumed by its morbid aspirations; and France trusting the algorithms: is it not our world?

Armelle Héliot, Le Figaro

Nowy Teatr in Warsaw
“We are leaving”
Direction: Krzysztof Warlikowski
Based on: “Suitcase packers” by Hanoch Levin
Translation: Jacek Poniedziałek
Text: Krzysztof Warlikowski, Piotr Gruszczyński
Stage design, costumes: Małgorzata Szczęśniak
Music: Paweł Mykietyn
Light direction: Felice Ross
Movement: Claude Bardouil
Animation and video: Kamil Polak
Dramaturgy: Piotr Gruszczyński
Dramaturgic assistance: Adam Radecki
Make-up and hairstyling: Monika Kaleta

Cast: Agata Buzek, Magdalena Cielecka, Ewa Dałkowska, Małgorzata Hajewska–Krzysztofik, Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieślak, Dorota Kolak, Monika Niemczyk, Maja Ostaszewska, Jaśmina Polak, Magdalena Popławska, Andrzej Chyra, Bartosz Gelner, Maciej Gąsiu Gośniowski, Wojciech Kalarus, Marek Kalita, Rafał Maćkowiak / Maciej Stuhr, Zygmunt Malanowicz, Piotr Polak, Jacek Poniedziałek

Coproduction: Théâtre National de Chaillot (Paris), Comédie de Clermont-Ferrand, CULTURESCAPES Switzerland, Greek Festival (Athens), Théâtre de Liège, Bonlieu Scène Nationale (Annecy)

Duration: 3.5 hours (with one break)

Premiere: 14 June 2018

WHEN: Monday, November 12, 2018, hour: 18.30, Auditorium, Katowice. City of Gardens – Institution of Culture. pl. Sejm Śląski 2.

II. “Męczennicy” (“Martyrs”) – dir. Grzegorz Jarzyna – TR Warszawa

Europe lives in anxiety, for the first time since the time of totalitarian regimes. What are we afraid of? The other, who may come and destroy our values, our life style and safety. Radical religious movements that want to control the lives or individuals and societies. An economic crisis that will affect families and whole communities and subvert the sense of stability. These anxieties can be addressed only by one’s turning towards the principles of faith. They are supposed to provide a steady foundation, upon which to build the live among moving sands; upon which one can tell good from evil, and the moral from the immoral.

What if faith turns into dogmatism? What if it becomes a sword that pierces human, the family and the community? What if the idealistic impulses lead to religious fanaticism?

“Don’t be scared,” says Lidka, the heroine of the performance by Grzegorz Jarzyna. The middle school student seeks in the Bible an answer to her anxieties, her identity and the sense of her life. Her father is concerned about the sudden change in her interests and behaviour, which are also incomprehensible to her peers and teachers. However, Lidka does not care about the opinion of her community. There is just one goal and one truth, for which one needs to sacrifice everything.

Grzegorz Jarzyna’s performance looks into the mechanisms of fear and fanaticism faced by the world today. This is a dramatic story about people ready to pay the highest price for the values they follow. Where does this kind of determination come from? How does religious extremism emerge? What is faith to the human now? Where is its place in the liberal system? What is today’s Europe afraid of? What are we afraid of?

From a review:

“Martyrs” is a political grotesque, a satire on the cultural war, or perhaps a tale about the lost girl? Lidka (Justyna Wasilewska) refuses to attend the swimming pool classes. Her father (Cezary Kosiński) – liberal and understanding – wants to help her. However, Lidka does not want to be just exempted from PE classes. She wants to be officially exempted on the religious grounds. She refuses to watch the bodily ‘shamelessness’. The school gives her much more: the students will swim in costumes covering their bodies up to their necks. Armed with a copy of literally interpreted Bible, the girl continues her cruciate, which she thinks of as the Way of the Cross. Another station: sexual education. If God says “be fertile and procreate,” why should we have classes to teach us how to put condoms on? Then – a class about Evolution. The original piece by Marius von Mayenburg (premiering at Schaubuhne in Berlin in 2012) featured the character of Beniamin instead of Lidka […].

At TR Warszawa, Lidka is more of mysticist than a crusader. We can see her in the scenes of long, ardent prayers. The look of Wasilewska, one of the most interesting actresses of the young generation – a subtle and at the same time strong and intense scenic presence – makes her resemble the saints represented in Gothic paintings […].

Jarzyna and the dramaturgist Roman Pawłowski have changed the gender of the protagonist, and it is evident that gender issues crop up in yet another way: the girls are sensitive, sensual and spiritual, and boys are militant, coldly calculating and assertive.

Wasilewska stays the on stage almost incessantly. We watch the world outside from the perspective of the protagonist’s self. This is why the teacher Dawidowicz and her intimate partner and PE teacher (marvellous Piotr Głowacki) are so grotesque and sexually obscene – they sniff at and jump around each other like monkeys – the symbols of disgust, something Lidka sees in Darwin’s theory.

This is why her schoolmate (Dawid Ogrodnik) is so humorously infantile (although this is the price you pay for casting adult actors for high-school students). This effect of subjectivity is complemented by the funny perspectives and the shadow play, the large silhouette of a priest towering over the girl.

The background of the school scenes is made up of screened images of classrooms and halls, yet it is hard to think of “Martyrs” as a commentary upon Polish ideological conflicts. Lidka is not an activist associated with Father Rydzyk, and the realities of the piece of von Mayenburg have little to do with Poland’s.

When Lidka’s father and her teachers are outraged at the cross being hung at the school, we can just bitterly smile. Not only do Polish schools lack sexual education. Crosses have hung there for a long time now – no Lidka-like girl needs to mount crosses made of wooden planks. And do not dare to take them down.

Witold Mrozek, “Gazeta Wyborcza”

An brilliant performance from Grzegorz Jarzyna at TR Warszawa does not judge anyone. Instead, it recounts a story about the world without values, where religious madness offers an escape.

Grzegorz Jarzyna does not have it easy. I have heard such things about his latest show… That it is infantile and flat, that its protagonist is an idiot, and that it does not pay enough attention to ideology, since there is little to be outraged at […]

After seeing “Martyrs,” I believe that Jarzyna does not need any labels now. It does not matter if you look for the traces of the once troublemaker, or, on the opposite – going to call him a new classic, or a conservative […].

In Jarzyna’s performance, there is not one moment when the normal teenage girl turns into an obsessed fundamentalist. Everything unfolds slowly in Lidka’s prayers and her conversations with her friends and teachers. Justyna Wasilewska proves in this unbelievably difficult part that she is likely the most extraordinary actress of her generation. She has the internal power that makes us absorb her words and follow her step by step. She creates a twisted personality that is enchanting and does not let the audience enjoy any comfort of safe distance. We thus do not reject her with an embarrassed smile; instead, we might feel some empathy at times without taking any side.

This is Jarzyna’s greatest show – appropriating the audience for the recounted story, making us part of it […].

There is plenty of acting success here – besides Justyna Wasilewska, there is Roma Gąsiorowska, cast in spite of her image, Aleksandra Konieczna, and fantastic brief appearances by Sebastian Pawlak, Piotr Głowacki and Dawid Ogrodnik. The harmoniously working troupe is greatly committed to supporting their soloist. There is something else worth mentioning, too – the video projections from Robert Mleczko. They expand the space and build the stage world of “Martyrs” with film images of the school hall and the locker room. They are then deformed, as if they were going through the twisted mind of the heroine. In addition, they aptly reflect film fascinations by Grzegorz Jarzyna. His theatre has also been the sum of various fields of art, especially cinema. Today, it is so more than ever.

Jacek Wakar, Polskie Radio, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna

With “Martyrs,” Grzegorz Jarzyna is fascinated with ideology, which reconstructs the Christian narrative about truth and seeks to make people aware that they live sinful lives and are internally enslaved – as often claims Lidka, the lead character of the play and an originator of a crusade, and the Priest, a religion teacher. However, Jarzyna’s show does not represent the rise of fanaticism, the birth of certain vision of the world that is then imposed on others; it is rather a show about the metaphysical desire, on the need to transform one’s life and the world and the idealistic belief that this transformation is possible […].

“Martyrs” clearly highlights the antagonism between two worldviews – the religious one and the rational one. Lidka obviously speaks for the former one; the latter is represented by the biology teacher, the head of Lidka’s school group, an atheist who trains students on contraceptives during the weekly class meetings. The very simple dramatic solution – to represent the conflict of two opposing views – brings a very important epistemic theme into the show – one associated with human’s creation and the clash of two views upon human creation that are incompatible with each other: the Darwinist one (human is “a rational animal,” the creation of evolution) and the Christian one, set forth in the Bible (human is the creation of God, a being that is God’s reflection, the miracle of creation). In the final scene of “Martyrs,” the teacher asks the audience a question about the version they believe in. Does the audience admit the affinity with the monkey or they prefer to think of themselves as the children of God? The conflict between Lidka and the teacher is that none of them can put themselves in the position of the other. The teacher makes an attempt to understand, starts reading the Bible, takes notes on small yellow cards. She fails, though, Jesus Christ continues to be her enemy, and the religious ecstasies – the falsity and compensation for the lack of something.

The coexistence of those two opposing positions is clear due to the setting of the scenes. Lidka’s monologues and her conversations with God usually take place in semi-darkness; sometimes one can hear voices in the background or see a white line running up on the screen at the back of the stage. During one of Lidka’s monologues, the line represents the stream of God’s grace coming down on the girl, standing in the middle of the stage with her arms spread wide apart – as if a figure of cross. The scenes featuring teachers are against the backdrop of a drawing of two monkeys that roam the Earth. This drawing shows up most often when the teacher talks to her lover – the PE teacher – or the school principal, with the dynamics between teachers and the principal being marked by strong erotic tension […].

“Martyrs” fits perfectly in the current social and political climate associated with the rise of fundamentalist religious worldviews. They represent the process of one’s strongly committing to certain idea or a vision of reality, previously having agreed to adopt that vision as one’s own and to enforce such a vision. One can also reflect on Jarzyna’s show without pointing to current issues. Within such a perspective, then, the show represents tensions between what is rational and what is sensed, spiritual and intangible; it forces the audience to adopt some stance and respond the question of what is faith, if it is needed and what it expects from us, and whether what it requires from us interferes with other people’s lives or not.”

Klaudia Muca, Teatr dla Was

TR Warszawa
Author: Marius von Mayenburg
Direction: Grzegorz Jarzyna
Translation: Elżbieta Ogrodowska-Jesionek
Adaptation: Grzegorz Jarzyna
Music production: Grzegorz Jarzyna
Stage design: Monika Pormale
Costumes: Anna Nykowska
Video: Robert Mleczko
Light direction: Felice Ross
Music: Michał Lis, Piotr Lis
Music production: Piotr Domiński
Dramaturgy: Roman Pawłowski
Assistant Director: Paweł Kulka
Consultation: prof. Tadeusz Bartoś

Lidka – Justyna Wasilewska
Father – Cezary Kosiński
Zosia – Roma Gąsiorowska
Franek – Dawid Ogrodnik
School principal – Tomasz Tyndyk
Biology teacher – Aleksandra Konieczna
PE teacher – Piotr Głowacki
Father – Sebastian Pawlak

Duration: 2 hours (no break)

Premiere: 14 March 2015

WHEN: Sunday, November 18, 2018, hour: 18.00, Auditorium, Katowice. City of Gardens – Institution of Culture, pl. Sejm Śląski 2.