Born on the 19th of July 1956 in Gdańsk. From 2011 he has been an artistic director of the Witold Gombrowicz Miejski Theatre in Gdynia.
Born on the 19th of July 1956 in Gdańsk. From 2011 he has been an artistic director of the Witold Gombrowicz Miejski Theatre in Gdynia.
Krzysztof Babicki graduated from the University of Gdańsk in Polish Studies. In 1982 he studied directing and graduated from the State Theatre School in Kraków. His teachers included Krystyna Skuszanka, Jerzy Krasowski, Jan Maciejowski, Bohdan Korzeniewski, Zygmunt Hübner, and Tadeusz Kantor. He has always highlighted the importance of theoretical subjects taught at the Kraków school.
He has mentioned the classes of Ewa Miodońska-Brookes who analysed Polish drama, and Professor Father Józef Tischner who taught philosophy. Babicki has admitted his fascination with the productions of Konrad Swinarski and Jerzy Jarocki as well as Peter Brook's vision of theatre. Still as a student in Gdańsk he became involved with the theatre. He was a co-founder and the manager of the Jedynka Student Theatre, but soon abandoned amateur drama in favour of professional theatre.
He marched into the theatre with a sure step, with two excellent productions, in 1982 August Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata in Gdańsk's Wybrzeże Theatre, and his graduation project Job based on the Book of Job a translation by Czesław Miłosz in the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków. His adaptation of the biblical and metaphysical text production was well received by critics, having noted the maturity of this tale of faithfulness and suffering, and excellent directing of the leading actors, Jerzy Nowak and Iwona Bielska. Soon enough Babicki was among the young talents - as critics dubbed the new generation of theatre directors at the time - next to such names as Krzysztof Zaleski, Janusz Nyczak, Janusz Wiśniewski, Tadeusz Bradecki, and Rudolf Zioło.
From 1982 Babicki worked with the Wybrzeże Theatre. For three seasons, starting in 1991, he was also the artistic manager at the Gdańsk Theatre. He staged a number of acclaimed productions there, such as Jerzy Andrzejewski's Już prawie nic / Almost Nothing (1983), Tadeusz Różewicz's Pułapka / The Trap (1984), Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard with the talented Halina Winiarska in the part of Ranevskaya (1985), and Albert Camus's Caligula (1988). His productions dealt with issues related to values, moral standards and faith. Very evocatively he discusses the end of civilisation which the modern man must deal with. He adapted contemporary texts for the stage, but also spoke about present-day human existence and the world's degeneration in the productions of classic works. During this time he also worked with the Old Theatre in Kraków, his productions included Per Olov Enquist's Rain Snakes with the brilliant roles played by Jan Nowicki and Teresa Budzisz-Krzyżanowska (1983), and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Affabulazione (1985).
Polish Romantic literature has been extremely important to Babicki. He uses it to highlight the importance of historiosophical thinking in which human fate is inseparably linked to the course of history and streaked with metaphysics. He took on Juliusz Słowacki's Kordian right after his debut. He staged this drama in 1982 at the Wybrzeże Theatre. His Kordian was a man entangled in double evil, the metaphysical or infernal, and the historical. The protagonist's life experience, as the critics wrote, became almost an act of suicide, leading to death in a world possessed by evil, a world we cannot consent to.
Similar concepts came up in his next production, Zygmunt Krasiński's Irydion staged at Wrocław's Contemporary Theatre (1984), reproduced in 1986 in Gdańsk. Into Krasiński's play, Babicki brought groups of people, travellers who appeared on stage with luggages and represented the human community wandering through the ages and history. This symbolic, constantly renewed and returning journey served as a backdrop for a very distinctive portrayal of human tragedy, primarily the tragedy of the hero subjected to evil.
Babicki behaves, wrote Barbara Osterloff, as if he wanted at all costs to extract the living person from under the Roman costume, from beneath the pathos and pomposity - the human being genuine in his passions and his tragedies. He leads the actors so that they portray a huge intensity of emotions sometimes in a single gesture or action.(Teatr 1985, No. 11)
This historiosophical trend was supplemented by a production of Tadeusz Miciński's Termopile polskie / Polish Thermopylae staged at the Old Theatre in Kraków (1985), yet again he showed a symbolic stage vision of history shaped by the continual struggle between Good and Evil, in a human dimension meant fundamental ethical standards.
The 1990s marked Babicki's return to Scandinavian dramas, with productions at the Wybrzeże Theatre such as August Strindberg's Miss Julie (1990) and The Road to Damascus (1991), Henrik Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea (1992), and Enquist's The Hour of the Lynx (1993). In Gdańsk, he staged Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida (1990) and All's Well that Ends Well (1998). He presented an interesting stage adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Possessed (1992), Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (1994), and Max Frisch's The Firebugs (1999). Babicki staged texts containing references to his home town, productions based on the works of Günter Grass - Było sobie kiedyś miasto / There Once Was a City (1994) and The Call of the Toad at the Baltic Culture Centre (2000) as well as Tragedia o bogaczu i Łazarzu / The Tragedy of the Rich Man and Lazarus by an anonymous author from Gdańsk staged at St. John's Church (2001). Parallel to this, he was a guest director at other theatres, including Warsaw's Polish Theatre, Poznań's New Theatre, Lublin's Osterwa Theatre, and the Śląski Theatre in Katowice.
Babicki likes big-scale theatre productions. His imagery is usually enhanced by expressive lighting and music. Very evocative stage visions in Babicki's shows have been based on the use of multiple, almost Baroque-like effects. Critics have noted that his projects betray a love for using kitsch, and some have accused him of resorting to flashiness, excessive deformation of the stage world, and incomprehensibility. Usually, though, his staging ideas were drawn directly from and strongly correlated with the text.
Faithfulness to the writer means a very personal response to the questions posed by that writer, Babicki said. The simplest possible response. Without seeking excuses or sidestepping. And without covering the mirror of one's own time. Of course good literature has a percentage of questions which remain unanswered. (Teatr 1984, No. 2)
Babicki has never been interested in theatre full of topical themes, immediate issues. If he wants to talk of social or political matters, he usually does so on the basis of the classics or early literature allowing him to achieve the distance necessary for honest, and often ironic, reflection. He also staged small-scale projects. His recent works show a more economical use of expression, a love for empty space, and exposure of words. This was the case with the Polish premiere of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk (2002), a play in which Bohr and Heisenberg, two physicists working on the atomic bomb, hold a conversation. Babicki showed this psychological study of a disintegrating friendship being put to a political test in a very subtle yet expressive way. Excellent characters were created by Halina Winiarska, Jerzy Kiszkis, and Dariusz Szymaniak. Jacek Sieradzki wrote, "together they have created a show, which says there are no simple solutions to tough questions, and thought is worth more than cheap excuses. A show that fires the imagination. Explosive" (Polityka, 2002, No. 23).
Three years later, Babicki produced another play by Frayn - Democracy, in which politics is intertwined with human tragedy - at the Kameralny Theatre in Sopot. He showed the mechanisms of wielding power and, though he was talking about West German policy from the late 1960s and early 1970s, the play turned out to be very topical, fitting Poland's reality very well.
In 2000 Babicki was appointed artistic director of the Osterwa Theatre in Lublin.
I chose Lublin for three reasons, he admitted. My parents come from the former eastern borderland. This is where Professor Irena Sławińska lived, who was my beloved professor at the University of Gdańsk 25 years ago and who came to see all of my productions. Finally, because Lublin is home to two student theatres which were the most important to me: Leszek Mądzik's and Janusz Opryński's. This is also where I had my first success, at the Young Theatre Confrontations in Lublin in 1980. (Kurier Lubelski, 21 March 2004)
In Lublin, Babicki presented successful productions of Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady / Forefathers' Eve (2001), sophisticated in form and based on the poetic word, and Shakespeare's Hamlet (2004) in which he focused on power and corruption, featuring disabled participants of theatrical Occupational Therapy Workshops. He also worked on contemporary texts, staging Paweł Huelle's Kąpielisko Ostrów / Ostrów Spa (2001), Petr Zelenka's Tales of Common Insanity (2005), and Sławomir Mrożek's Miłość na Krymie / Love in the Crimea (2006).
In Lublin, Babicki presented successful productions of Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady / Forefathers' Eve (2001), sophisticated in form and based on the poetic word, and Shakespeare's Hamlet (2004) in which he focused on power and corruption, featuring disabled participants of theatrical Occupational Therapy Workshops. He also worked on contemporary texts, staging Paweł Huelle's Kąpielisko Ostrów / Ostrów Spa (2001), Petr Zelenka's Tales of Common Insanity (2005), and Sławomir Mrożek's Miłość na Krymie / Love in the Crimea (2006) and Tom Stoppard's Rock' n' Roll (2008) telling about the significance of rock'n'roll for the young generation of the '68 in Eastern Bloc Czechoslovakia between the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.
Recently Babicki has also worked for the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków where he staged a neatly-prepared comedy about the modern economic crisis Frank V. Komedia bankierska / Frank der Fünfte Oper einer Privatbank / Frank V. The Bankers Comedy by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (2008). On the stage in Katowice, at the Stanisław Wyspiański Silesian Theatre, Babicki directed world classics - William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (2007) and August Strindberg's Miss Julie (2008).
Babicki directed also two important performances based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's prose – The Idiot at the Juliusz Ostrewa Theatre (2007) and Crime and Punishment at the Silesian Theatre in Katowice (2009). Strong sides of the performances, as the critics point out, are well-made adaptations and deep, psychologically-oriented acting. The Idiot presented the richness of the novel in a simple, witty way. Łukasz Drewniak wrote about the on-stage version of Raskolnikov's story:
Krzysztof Babicki at the Silesian Theatre in Katowice manages to slip through the darkness of Crime and Punishment mostly due to the successful adaptation. An oniric social narrative instead of a philosophical debate bites equally hard (…) ("Dziennik" – "Kultura" supplement 2009, No. 142).
In 2009 the director staged as many as five premieres: Per Olov Enquist's Rain snakes / Från regnormarnas liv (Jan Kochanowski Powszechny Thatre in Radom ), Grażyna Lutosławska's O dwóch krasnoludkach i jednym końcu świata / About Two Dwarfs and One End of the World (Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin), Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (Stanisław Wyspiański Silesian Theatre in Katowice), Job (Powszechny Theatre in Radom) and Bruno Schulz's The Grand Season Night (Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin). Jan Bończa-Szabłowski about the performance based on Schulz's prose:
Schulz's imagination, both remarkable and worrying, has been an inspiration for artists dealing with many types of art for ages. Krzysztof Babicki is one of a few theatre directors who dared to take up his prose. Stories by the writer from Drohobych are based on his personal experiences. However, his stories bear the universal qualities and that is why we call the world created by Schulz the mythologized reality. Babicki made it to revive the characters of this world and demons creeping over Schulz's imagination on the stage of the Ostrewa Theatre in Lublin. (Rzeczpospolita daily, 20.11.2009)
Some of the next performances directed by Babicki premiered at the Juliusz Ostrewa Theatre in Lublin: Chopin – muzyka, miłość, śmierć / Chopin – music, love, death (2010), Mateusz Pakuła's Biały dmuchawiec / White Dandelion (2010), Paweł Huelle's Zamknęły się oczy Ziemi / The Eyes of the Earth Have Closed (2011). Huelle in his drama touches the tragic events of the 2005 when it surfaced that Bethany nuns in one of the monasteries were sexually harassed and as a results they were excluded from the cloister. These events were a starting point for the story about a villa standing in the neighbourhood of the monastery.
In 2011, right after becoming the artistic director of the Witold Gombrowicz Miejski Theatre in Gdynia, Babicki staged himself numerous plays: Rock'n'Roll by Tom Stoppard (2011), Crabwalk by Günter Grass (2012), Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen (2013), Les Bonnes / The Maids Jean Genet's (2013), Paweł Huelle's Kolibra lot ostatni / The Last Flight of the Hummingbird (2014), Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Demons (2014), Paweł Huelle's Żółta łódź podwodna / Yellow Submarine (2015), Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Śnieżka i krasnoludki / Swow White and the Dwarfs (2015) and once again Per Olov Enquist's Rain snakes / Från regnormarnas liv (2016).
Apart from that, he directed Zbójcy / The Robbers written by Friedrich Schiller (Stanisław Wyspiański Silesian Theatre in Katowice, 2013), the play was Babicki's second production based on works by Schiller; Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring (Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków, 2014), The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (Nowy Theatre in Słupsk, 2014), and Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage (Jan Kochanowski Powszechny Theatre in Radom, 2015). Martyna Dębska wrote about God of Carnage for the Dziennik Teatralny webside:
Krzysztof Babicki skilfully distributed the accents of the conflict, simultaneously affecting the audience emotions who – judging from their reaction – shortened the distance between themselves and the on-stage fiction showing it over and over again with evoking bursts of honest and understanding laughter. (Dziennik Teatralny, 15.09.2015)
He has also over twenty productions for Television Theatre, including Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Nathan the Wise (1992), Friedrich Schiller's The Robbers (1996), Franz Wedekind's The Marquis of Keith (1996), and Gustav Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1998). Mainly in the second half of the 1980s, Babicki directed abroad, to mention a few; Tadeusz Różewicz's Białe małżeństwo / The White Marriage, The Possessed based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare's Macbeth, Sophocles' Antigone, and Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos. He worked with theatres in the Netherlands, Finland, and South Korea as well as Germany and Russia.
Awards and distinctions:
- 1982 - Hugo Moryciński Prize for young artists at the 24th Northern Poland Theatre Festival in Toruń, for directing August Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk;
- 1984 - award at the 26th Northern Poland Theatre Festival in Toruń, for adapting and directing Już prawie nic / Almost Nothing based on Jerzy Andrzejewski at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, and the award for a performance of high artistic standard; Konrad Swinarski Award for the productions: Per Olov Enquist's Rain Snakes at the Old Theatre in Kraków, Już prawie nic / Almost Nothing based on Jerzy Andrzejewski, Tadeusz Różewicz's Pułapka / The Trap at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, and Zygmunt Krasiński's Irydion at the Contemporary Theatre in Wrocław; the Laurel 84 award from Radar magazine in the director category, for 1984 premieres; award at the 24th Festival of Contemporary Polish Drama in Wrocław, for directing Tadeusz Różewicz's Pułapka / The Trap at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk; main award at the 24th Kalisz Theatre Meetings, for directing Per Olov Enquist's Rain Snakes at the Old Theatre in Kraków; main award at the 24th Kalisz Theatre Meetings, for adapting and directing Już prawie nic / Almost Nothing based on Jerzy Andrzejewski and for creative stage achievement by a director of the youngest generation;
- 1985 - award from the Gdańsk province governor for original, artistically mature productions at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk;
- 1986 - Silver Cross of Merit; annual theatre award from "Głos Wybrzeża" newspaper for interesting stage productions, especially for Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk; Stanisław Wyspiański Award first degree for directing excellence at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, especially for directing Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard;
- 1987 - award from the Gdańsk Friends of the Arts Society for directing achievement at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk; Wanda Siemaszkowa Prize at the 26th Rzeszów Theatre Meetings, for directing Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk;
- 1988 - award from the mayor of Gdańsk;
- 1991 - award from the Gdańsk province governor for directing Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and August Strindberg's Miss Julie at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, and the production of the year title for Troilus and Cressida;
- 1993 - award from the Gdańsk province governor for directing The Possessed based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk;
- 1994 - Gdańsk's Pegasus Statuette for directing Per Olov Enquist's The Hour of the Lynx at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk; award from the Minister of Culture and Art for the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk at the 29th National Small Theatre Forms Festival in Szczecin, for the production of Per Olov Enquist's The Hour of the Lynx;
- 1995 - award from the Gdańsk province governor on World Theatre Day, for achievements of the past year, especially for directing Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk;
- 1996 - Gold Cross of Merit;
- 1999 - special mention at the 5th National Competition for the Best Production of a Contemporary Polish Play in Warsaw, for Tadeusz Różewicz's Pułapka / The Trap from the New Theatre in Poznań;
- 2000 - Katowice's Golden Mask - award for directing Friedrich Schiller's Love and Intrigue at the Śląski Theatre in Katowice;
- 2001 - Mściwoj II Medal; special mention at the 26th Opole Theatre Confrontations, for Stanisław Wyspiański's Wyzwolenie / Liberation at the Śląski Theatre in Katowice;
- 2002 - culture award from the Lublin Province Board on World Theatre Day; Lublin's Tomek Award - for the best cultural event of the 2001/2002 season - Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady / Forefathers' Eve from the Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin;
- 2005 - special mention at the 5th Portrayed Reality Contemporary Drama Festival in Zabrze, for directing Michael Frayn's Democracy at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk; second prize at Kraków's Drama of Nations - Polish Romantic Drama Festival, for Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady / Forefathers Eve from the Osterwa Theatre in Lublin;
- 2006 - Gloria Artis Silver Medal - for contribution to culture; award from the Lublin province marshal on World Theatre Day.
- 2007 - City of Gdańsk Artistic Award;
- 2013 – Theatre Award from the Pomeranian voivodship marshall for the best play of the year – Crabwalk from the Miejski Theatre in Gdynia.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, December 2006