Spanish theatre scholar Professor Jose Antunano and Michael Handelzalts, Polish-born Israeli critic for Haaretz Newspaper, were among the foreign journalists accredited for the 34th edition of the Warsaw Theatre Meetings. Among the performances that made the biggest impression on them, they distinguished To Damascus by August Strindberg, directed by Jan Klata; Night of the Living Jews by Igor Ostachowicz, directed by the duo of Aleksandra Popławska and Marek Kalita; and Kronos by Witold Gombrowicz, adapted and directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski.
-I was interested in To Damascus and Kronos. In the first of them, Klata intelligently reads this multi-layered text. The choice of topics, the transfer of characters from individual scenes and the collision of characters creates a personal and clear vision of Strindberg's text. Kronos is my transgressive and provocative proposal, as is the Witold Gombrowicz text itself. However, it has a few staging problems, but I noticed his search for a new theatrical language, which seems interesting to me. This is not a closed proposal, but contains elements which can be discussed. This is what matters in theatre. – said Antun in an interview with PAP.
Michael Handelzalts emphasized the form of the Night of the Living Jews play as courageous and daring:
This topic is not treated with a sense of holiness and respect; it moves in a lively, controversial, often risky way. We shouldn’t act quietly and be careful in case by chance someone is offended, just boldly move topics that are there and should be faced.
Among this year’s the most interesting events were also critically-acclaimed performances Winter Journey (Podróż zimowa) by Elfriede Jelinek, directed by Maja Kleczewska; Ice based on the prose of Jacek Dukaj and directed by Janusz Opryński; and To Damascus. Both critics also stressed that the characteristic feature of Polish theatre is its willingness to take risky experiments, often with "classic" texts.
The Klata and Kleczewska generation
I have watched Polish theatre for 20 years. During this time, it has made a significant change from naturalistic and complex theatre towards post-modern theatre, with the need for visual, fragmented and fast culture. This is characterized by modernity and making theatre evolve. The work of the director is extremely important. Reading classical texts through contemporary drama is important. It reaches out to the audience and tells a story on the stage. These are the features that interest me in particular and the most important thing is that this change creates its own aesthetic, not rejecting their past, although it questions it" - said Prof. Antunano.
“Polish theatre has always been interesting, because it always tried to experiment, to approach well-known pieces in other, more unconventional ways" - said Michael Handelzalts, but in his opinion, sometimes this “trying to be different” is not a good thing. According to the critic, the traditional approach to art and its execution also has some advantages that might be forgotten. “There is no shortage of great actors and great directors, working with panache. There was Lupa and Warlikowski's generation; now we are two generations away and we can see their influence. Yet we can’t see the original, but it could still emerge” - commented Michael Handelzalts .
The Israeli critic was also gratified by the attendance of the event. In his opinion, it proved the Warsaw audience's interest in the Warsaw Theatre Meeting as well as in the theatre itself. “Actually, all of the performances that I saw were full of people, receiving live what is happening on stage. This is theatre which is viewed not only by theatrical people but also by the general public of Warsaw" - said Handelzalts in an interview with PAP.
Source: PAP, ed. AL, translated: Katarzyna Maksimiuk, 15.04.2014