"For a few days, a different planet is created. It is the space of a utopia, which is constructed by everyone individually. The Free City of Gdynia."
Opener Festival, photo: Paweł Tarasewicz / Alter Art
This year’s edition of the Heineken Open’er festival proved a huge success, with the new formulas of theatre productions and an interactive art installation expanding the overture to three days of fun in Poland’s coast city of Gdynia
Although international stars of pop and alternative music remained the highlight of the festival, the array of young Polish musicians was also very impressive. Contemporary art made a bold entrance onto the grounds of the Gdynia-Kosakowo airport with the showcase of work by Paweł Althamer and the Nowolipie group, conducted by the Warsaw’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Fashion Stage was also back on, presenting such labels as Anna Poniewierska, Ima Mad, Jakub Pieczarkowski, Jarosław Ewert, Kamil Sobczyk, Mart, Neogotik, Klu. by Edyta Jermacz, and the designers from Viamoda Industrial.
The novely of this year’s edition was an expanded offer for theatre lovers. Festivalgoers viewed the newest Nowy Teatr in Warsaw production directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, Warsaw Cabaret, which was staged daily over the course of the festival. Last year, Warlikowski revived his Angels of America at Poland’s largest festival of rock music. Another play from the Nowy company was Nancy.Wywiad / Nancy. The Interview by Claude Bardouil which featured on the programme alongside Courtney Love by of Monika Strzępka and Paweł Demirski, a production of Teatr Polski in Wrocław, and an adaptation of writer Dorota Masłowska's Paw Królowej from the Stary Teatr in Kraków.
In an interview with Roman Pawłowski for the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, Warlikowski revealed analogies he perceived between the work of theatre artists and rock stars. "They are guardians of the human order, with a charisma. Similiarly to us in the theatre, they reflect in their songs the human being, and they express themselves." Warlikowski goes on to explain the impact that last year’s stagings of Angels in America had on the work on his newest piece, Warsaw Cabaret, shown in Gdynia this year:
I didn’t know this world before, I found myself at this kind of a festival for the very first time last year. We walked around with [the actress] Maja Komorowska and watched concerts, it was one of my biggest cultural experiences. When working on Cabaret, we used this kind of energy as a base. In a way the second part of the performance is very much connected with this place, here it became possible to create an encounter between theatre, music and dance, one that I always dreamt of. This experience is manifest today in a more brave transgression of the fourth wall in theatre. We have been playing our performances frontally for a long time, but the contact the Open’er audience is a different thing.
The director also emphasises the power he admires in rock stars who perform at the festival. Warlikowski said that these performers are:
People who are not afraid of the mass, they have an incredible power. They fascinate me because they are able to operate in the dangerous space of a mass spectacle. If you only watch Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl you can understand what the emotions of a crowd can be used for. But here, I have the impression that the best performers are guardians of morality, guardians of some kind of order.
Roman Pawłowski also questioned Warlikowski on the kind of audience that gathers at the festival, stating that the organisers of Heineken Open’er see its visitors as the dream audience: a free, tolerant and engaged people, capable of changing the country into a better place. Warlikowski commented:
The people here certainly receive more light, energy and courage that stays with them for a long time and perhaps it really can change their awareness. The world “hatred” which seems to be making a career in Poland these days, doesn’t exist here. For a few days, a different planet is created. It is the space of a utopia, which is constructed by everyone individually. The Free City of Gdynia.
The audience is very varied, there are people from big cities and from smaller towns, there are regular theatre goers and those who go to see a performance for the first time. It is not an easy spectator. [...] The reception at such a gigantic festival is, contrary to what it may seem, very intimate. Although a man is immersed in the crowd, he opens himself up in different ways. I observe people who, with their dance right upstage, want to express that they have crossed some kind of a Rubicon. This is then transmitted on the theatre.
A scene from Krzysztof Warlikowski's "Warsaw Cabaret", photo: Magda Hueckel / Nowy Teatr
Warlikowski also declared that he appreciated the audience’s spontenous reactions at the festival, which very much reminded him of the shouts that usually accompany music gigs.
We have an encoded respect for the theatre as a place where one is supposed to keep quiet, and even today you can come across people in the audience of a theatre who will hush others. The point is not to have this convention. I like the way an audience reacts spontaneously. In large European cities theatregoers book their seats in advance, here many people come to our showings with no booking, with the risk that they won’t get in. That’s why they react so heatedly during the performaces.
This audience is very young, and ruthless in their judgement. Poland has a very young theatre audience, and the question is how far to they reach. There are performance when one thinks one can propose anything to them. But of course, if one evening the watch Nick Cave, and the next the see a theatre perfomance, there is the need for something very special in order to touch them.
Paulina Schlosser, source: press release, Roman Pawłowski’s interview (in Polish) for the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, 12.07.2013