In the “Theatrical Series” of the publishing house “New Literary Review” published a book by theater critic Grzegorz Niezolek “Polish Theater of Catastrophe” translated by Natalia Yakubova.
For Russian spectators, critics and the entire theatrical community, one of the most important events of the last ten years was the special program “Golden Mask” “Polish Theater in Moscow” (2011). In particular, Krzysztof Varlikowski’s (A) Pollonia’s play, which demonstrated a new theatrical language and a new way of talking about the historical memory and trauma of the Holocaust, became almost the “starting point” of the new era. In 2012, the magazine THEATER. dedicated his third number Polish theater of the twentieth century. In ten years, the relevance of the topic has obviously only increased, so that the publication of the book “Polish Theater of Catastrophe” in Russian is difficult not to consider timely.
A fundamental study undertaken by Grzegorz Niezolek (now head of the Department of Theater and Drama at the Faculty of Polish Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow) focuses on the complex relationship between the Polish Theater and the Holocaust (referred to here as the Catastrophe). Recalling that the participants in the Catastrophe thought of themselves in theatrical categories and terms (“all the evidence of the Catastrophe is filled with theatrical metaphors”), Nizelek writes, he analyzes the role and possibilities of theater as a testimony or, as he puts it, a “symptom”. Basically, this is what Niezolek means by “testimony”: , the scenes of their persecution, humiliation, exclusion from human society and murder were well visible and ubiquitous experiences of society bystanders (as called by outside observers of the Catastrophe Raoul Hilberg). The theater has a special role to play in the history of this displacement, as it has taken part both in the processes that support the state of repression and in attempts to break through it. It has become a place of repetition – a relentless reproduction of not so much repressed events, as they would call for a direct and readable representation for the audience, as the very fact of repression. I call this repetition of the ousting the testimony that was given by the theater. “
The author is skeptical: “The testimony given through the theater cannot, however, serve as any symbolic compensation for the facts of passivity, indifference, fear and stupidity that have taken place in the past. It does not help to work out the past, it is not one of the rituals of sorrow. It is powerless – and even the pride of performance and optimism of the anthropology of theater will not help. The testimonies of the theater, which I am writing about here, cannot save anything. Unable to imagine anything. They do not bring catharsis. But exist»(Author’s italics). However, Nizelek tells about the facts of theatrical history that “exist” and take the topic out of the zone of silence, in which it was placed intentionally or unconsciously (depending on the time). In particular, the theater of Cantor and Grotowski, according to the author, “operated in a taboo space”, not giving a name to what “he is actually talking about”, and putting the audience in a position not only unusual but also extremely uncomfortable for him.
The book “Polish Theater of Catastrophe” consists of two parts. The first, relatively small, part entitled “Catastrophe and Theater” can be tentatively called “theoretical”. It is devoted to the important for Niezolek relationship of “theatrical metaphors” and “medium of theater”, theater within the experience of the Catastrophe and after it. “In this chapter, I present the hypothesis of a profound transformation of the theater as a medium as a result of the widespread public experience of observing the suffering of others and the equally widespread displacement of this experience,” the author states in the introduction. Let us list (without explanation) the titles of the chapters included in this part: “Theater of the Roths”, “Who was not in Auschwitz?”
However, the main part of the book is the chapter “Theater and Catastrophe”, devoted to specific “theatrical facts”, as the author calls them – among them, of course, is (A) polonia “Varlikovsky.” The theatrical facts studied by Niezolek belong to the period of 1946-2009. With an extremely wide range of heroes of the book, described in detail and purposefully analyzed by the author, as he writes, “performances of Leon Schiller, Alexander Bardini, Jan Schwidersky, Erwin Akser, Józef Šajna, Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, Kazimierz Dameik, Andráj , Jerzy Grzegorzewski, Christian Lupa, Krzysztof Varlikowski and Ondrej Spisak. As well as two Polish plays about the Catastrophe, one of which was written immediately after the war, and the other – a few years ago: “Easter” by Stefan Otwinowski and “Our Class” by Tadeusz Slobodzyanek.
We will remind, in 2018 in the 33rd issue of the THEATER magazine. was published excerpt from the book The Polish Catastrophe Theater (also translated by Natalia Jakubova) is an abridged version of Jerzy Grotowski’s chapter on What You Can’t Think of in Poland, entitled A Study of Hamlet.