9th Edition of the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival
The Divine Comedy, one of the most eagerly anticipated Polish theatre festivals, starts on 8th December in Kraków. Ten widely discussed premières of the season will be judged by an international jury from Chile, Japan, Iran, Finland, and Great Britain.
The motto of this year's edition of the festival is Poland Is Not Yet Lost As Long As The Theatre Lives, a paraphrasing of the national anthem. It's intended to recall that political declarations don't decide a country's strength and position, it is rather done by the independent circulation of thoughts and ideas and their range and diversity. Bartosz Szydłowski, art director of the festival, underlines that Polish theatre is a brand recognised all over the world:
Poland's economy may decline in rank, but we are still at the top of theatrical rankings. With our motto, I'm standing up for the people of the theatre to give impetus to uniting theatrical society and to oppose the ideological or economical discussion of Polish culture. The Divine Comedy is a special time, a deep breath after an intense year of artistic work, a meeting place for those who create theatre with those who love it. At the Divine Comedy Festival we charge our batteries, because the festival's atmosphere shows that things happening on the stage don't leave the audience indifferent, it helps us talk to and understand ourselves. We create a space for dialogue, reflection, and unity – we symbolically renew a gesture of faith in the theatrical utopia, which can be the better possible worlds wherein the Other awakens curiosity, and a chance for enriching ourselves.
Like every year, the most dramatic part of the festival is the Polish INFERNO Contest, within which the ten most provocative and exciting productions of the past season will be presented. New names have appeared this season, showing the evolution of Polish culture and interesting new subjects and staging tendencies. Who is going to compete for the Divine Comedian statue?
Agnieszka Olsten is one competitor: at the festival we will see her Comediant, based on Thomas Bernhardt's drama with Agnieszka Kwietniewska in the main role. Dybuk by Anna Smolar will come to Kraków from the Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz. In Dybuk, a traditional tale about possession exposes Polish complexes, fears, and prejudices. White Power, Black Memory by Piotr Ratajczak is a performance loosely based on the reportages of Marcin Kącki, nominated for a Nike Award, which touch the most painful points in Polish history. Agata Duda-Gracz will present Kumernis, or How a Holy Lady Grew a Beard prepared and realised in the Musical Theatre in Gdynia.
Festival veterans will also be present. Radek Rychcik will present his show The Wedding (Wesele), realised in Silesian Theatre in Katowice. Wiktor Rubin and Jola Janiczak will present Everybody Gets What They Believe In (Każdy dostanie to, w co wierzy) from the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw – a performative experiment inspired by The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, exploring the mechanisms and concepts of building democracy. Krzysztof Garbaczewski also returns to the festival with his Robert Robur, a show based on the prose of Mirosław Nahacz, analysing the subject of the virtualisation and mediatisation of the modern world. In the Polish competition two performances from the National Stary Theatre in Kraków will also be shown – Charges/ Podopieczni by Paweł Miśkiewicz, based on Elfride Jelinek’s play, which tackles the subject of refugees and identity crisis in Europe in a curious way, and Enemy of The People, directed by Jan Klata and based on Ibsen’s text, which portrays the mechanisms of how political conflicts arise in the microcosm of a small, isolated society.
The laureate of last year’s INFERNO Grand Prix Michał Borczuch couldn’t be missing at this year’s edition. He will present All About My Mother – a performance referring to Almodovar's film in its title, which is the director's personal tale about loss, friendship, and femininity.
The international jury from Chile, Japan, Iran, Finland, and Great Britain will choose the best performances of the season for the Kraków Theatrical Awards. The main prize of 50,000 złoty, funded by the Mayor of Kraków, Jacek Majchrowski, will be awarded to the theatre which produced the winning performance. The individual prizes for the artists in seven categories were funded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Divine Comedy has a tradition of co-producing the premières of plays in the PURGATORIO section. This year, Grzegorz Wiśniewski was invited to cooperate – he will stage the Polish preview of the Plastics (Plastiki) written by Marius von Mayenburg, a renowned German playwright. Another premiere at the festival is A Whale The Globe (Wieloryb The Globe) directed by Eva Rysova with Krzysztof Globisz playing the main role (a co-production with the Stary Theatre in Lublin).
At this year's edition of PURGATORIO, foreign performances created in co-operation with Polish artists and cultural institutions will be presented as well. The Institute of Memory by Lars Jan is a multimedia performance produced for the 100th anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor's birth, with drama by Anna R. Burzyńska and the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Drama Princess by Michał Borczuch from the Slovene Mladinsko Theatre created in co-operation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Polish Embassy in Ljubljana.
The Divine Comedy’s organisers guarantee that the temperature in the PARADISO youth section will be as high as that of the INFERNO section. For the first time, it will have the form of a competition: young artists will be judged by a separate, international jury. Its members come from Israel, New Zealand, and Korea. Magda Szpecht, Katarzyna Kalwat, Kuba Roszkowski, Anna Karasińska, Teo Dumski, Małgorzata Warsicka, Jakub Skrzywanek, and Aneta Groszyńska will be featured in this section of the festival.
The prize for winning the competition is a staging of the winning performance with a budget of 100,000 zloty, to be presented at next year’s edition of the festival. In addition, in PARADISO we can expect a review of the achievements of theatre schools, among them, schools from Białystok, Wrocław, and Kraków. For foreign curators, a ‘Kraków path’ has also been prepared during which they will see chamber performances by the Ludowy Theatre, KTO Theatre, and the Theatre of Figures, as well as a visit to Cricoteka.
This year, the festival will last from 8th to 17th December in Kraków. The event is supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
Source: press materials, written by AL, translated by br