Theatre director, born in 1973.
Table of contents:Education and Debut | Successful Work with Actors | Staging Evil in Macbeth and Woyzeck | Theatre of Extreme Emotions | Awards
Education and Debut
Kleczewska studied psychology at the University of Warsaw as well as graduating from the Directing Department at the State Theatre School in Kraków. During her studies, she collaborated with Tadeusz Bradecki and worked as Krystian Lupa's assistant at the Stary Theatre in Krakow. She also cooperated with Krzysztof Warlikowski on the production of Sophocles's Electra at Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw (1997).
Kleczewska debuted on the stage of Słowacki Theatre in Kraków presenting Anna Reynolds' and Moira Buffini's Jordan (2000); Dominika Bednarczyk created a moving role in the monodrama-confession made by a lower-class girl.
The tragedy of a girl who does not know how to live is indeed touching - wrote Joanna Targoń. - It was made possible thanks to the collaboration of the actress and of the director, as well as a result of the stage design – all mutually supporting each other instead of searching for effects and ideas. ("Gazeta Wyborcza – Kraków" June 20, 2000)
After her successful debut Kleczewska produced Hugo con Hofmannstahl's Electra at Norwid Theatre in Jelenia Góra (2001), adding fragments from Aeschylus's Oresteia to the script. While doing an in-depth analysis of the character's psyche and the motives behind her conduct, in the play Kleczewska put her main focus on loneliness, alienation and the inability to find oneself in the modern world. A year later the director returned to Słowacki Theatre to produce a contemporary play by the Scottish playwright David Harrower, Knives in Hens. Her play – about the search for identity and about discovering the world by a young woman – was not met with a warm welcome this time.
The principal, most important reason for the failure of the play in Krakow is quite certainly the way it has been directed - Justyna Nowicka noted. - Maja Kleczewska proved unable to tell a simple story written out for three parts. The characters' emotions either remain confusing or are presented with such naivety that it is impossible to believe them. ("Rzeczpospolita" October 1, 2002)
Successful Work with Actors
What's more, Maja Kleczewska created plays at Szaniawski Theatre in Wałbrzych, under the direction of Piotr Kruszczyński. There she produced Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (2002) and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? based on Horace McCoy's novel (2003). In both these productions the director's work with the actors gave remarkable results, and the plays proved precise commentaries on the present.
You watch her play like a story about contemporary Wałbrzych - Jan Bończa-Szabłowski wrote about "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?". - This all shows how much McCoy's vision relates to our own times. The characters we see would surely take part in the next edition of "Big Brother"; they would let themselves be humiliated in Michał Wiśniewski's show, and they would talk about their most intimate experiences without embarrassment. All this to escape the overwhelming misery.("Rzeczpospolita" May 15-16, 2004)
Kleczewska also took part in the preparations for the premiere of Kopalnia / The Mine, a play written by Michał Walczak and directed by Kruszczyński at the theatre in Wałbrzych; she collaborated on the dramatic editing of the text (2004).
In 2004 Kleczewska squared up to Anton Chekhov's works. At Norwid Theatre in Jelenia Góra she showed The Seagull, a drama about human unfulfillment, and where she chose to strongly emphasise the mutual, toxic emotions and relations between the characters. The plot was transferred to a contemporary sanatorium. Kleczewska created the show considering the context of the space she was working in, as she did before in Wałbrzych.
I always associated Jelenia Góra with a sort of sanatorium or waiting room - Kleczewska said - with a temporary space, and at the same time a space you could not leave, but in which you could put down roots. ("Nowiny Jeleniogórskie" February 7, 2004).
Staging Evil in Macbeth and Woyzeck
Shakespeare's Macbeth was one of Kleczewska's most well-known plays, staged at Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole (2004).
I, human, am responsible for all that happens in the world. This is the type of consciousness we need in theatre - Kleczewska claimed. - Nothing more. ("Notatnik Teatralny" 2004, no. 35)
It seems that these words were a precise description of her interpretation of Macbeth, where evil became total and overpowering. As the evil created by human beasts was "shiny" and cheap, too, we had to feel it even more painfully.
The characters from "Macbeth" staged in Opole - wrote Anna R. Burzyńska - in the most horrible way distort the humanistic claims about the unlimited potential existing in humans. They think that since they have been forced into the hardships of existence, they deserve all the best from life. And they hesitate at nothing in order to achieve it. ("Tygodnik Powszechny")
In the play the director used the style of violent cinema, filtering the playwright's drama through popular culture.
Kleczewska's next production, Georg Büchner's Woyzeck (Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz, 2005), a drama about a wretched barber-murderer – with the lead part played brilliantly by Sebastian Pawlak – was transferred to the present, a provincial town. The director managed to show the duplicity, the hypocrisy and the cruelty of Woyzeck's world. In the reality of the play, one in which you could find both a television talk show and a baroque altar hanging above the stage, evil was rife and the world was riddled with violence, viciousness and social ill. In this moving story you could see a real tragedy of a man driven to crime; you could also notice – as earlier in Macbeth – an attempt to describe and evaluate the earthly evil, the more biting as it was related to the altar made to remind us about the moral values and sanctions.
The subsequent plays directed by Kleczewska were produced at Stary Theatre and at The National Theatre in Warsaw. In Krakow she showed a classic work and a very contemporary piece: Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (2006) and Blasted by Sarah Kane (2007). Shakespeare's story turned into a supplement of Kleczewska's two previous productions, Macbeth and Woyzeck, both ruthlessly depicting the corrupt, hollow world. A Midsummer Night's Dream was shown in a night club, the only reality of the play, deceptive, pulsating and vile. Kleczewska offered a scathing description of the world in which love was impossible and humankind was headed toward extinction – an immersion in lies. The natural consequence of showing a world in which people drowned in destruction and bestiality was her next choice: Sarah Kane's Blasted from 1994, the study of destruction and hate.
In 2006 Kleczewska showed Phèdre, using the works of Euripides, Seneca, Per Olov Enquist and István Tasnádi. Danuta Stenka piercingly portrayed an obsessive, insane need of love, emerging and growing regardless of social convention, culture, and regardless of her own self. The actress revealed a wild, physiological desire with no restraints.
Phèdre, amazingly, almost exhibitionistically played by Danuta Stenka, moulds a sick love for her stepson from both Hippolytus's spit of youth and the deathly smell of the body of Theseus, her husband - Łukasz Drewniak wrote. - She is the most radical of Kleczewska's heroines. She proves that female humiliation does not come from the outside. And it does not stay in the head, it stays in the loins. ("Przekrój" 2006, no. 50)
At Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole Kleczewska produced Ödön von Horváth's Tales from the Vienna Woods (2008). In her most recent play, written by Horváth, the director created a picture of contemporary Poland from a story about the birth of fascism. She used the stereotypes of Polish Catholics, Backwater Poles and Polish anti-Semites, making an attempt to show how individual evil translates into the evil of society.
Theatre of Extreme Emotions
Without a doubt, Kleczewska is one of the most prominent and bold personalities in contemporary Polish theatre. She interprets the classics in a very personal way, she flirts with kitsch, and she takes by the handful from visual pop culture. "We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Tracking pop culture and synchronizing it with theatre is very important to me", emphasizes the director in interviews. In her theatre, she portrays human being in extreme situations. Her productions are regarded as performances which sharpen the perception of reality, focusing on the most painful subjects: infanticide, corruption, insanity, sexual identity, obsession with body, and otherness.
If I was making theatre in London or Paris, I would probably touch on other problems. However, I work in Poland, and here the otherness is not accepted, it is marginalised, rejected, under suspicion and causes fear. In this respect, theatre is a space where we can confront the Other in a safe way. For me, theatre is a space of freedom for a group of people, who, through exchange and in the sincerity of their longings, needs and desires, can do whatever is on their minds together – Kleczewska says in Bzik Kulturalny.
She has staged works by Shakespeare (Tempest), Chekhov, Sara Kane, and most recently, Austrian Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. She interprets great works with her own vocabulary, as she claims that loyalty towards authors can be dangerous, as it limits imagination and detaches us from what is most important. Her recent productions – the abundantly awarded Podróż zimowa / Winter Journey and Cienie. Eurydyka mówi / Shadows. Euridice is speaking starring Katarzyna Nosowska were staged in the Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz.
- Embarrassment 2002, "Gazeta Wyborcza – Kraków" popular vote anti-award for David Harrower's "Knives in Hens" at Słowacki Theatre in Krakow;
- Wojciech statuette and actors' company award at the 43rd Theatre Sessions in Kalisz for the producers of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Jerzy Szaniawski Dramatyczny Theatre in Wałbrzych
- Audience Award at Interpretations 7th Art of Directing Festival in Katowice for directing Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Jerzy Szaniawski Dramatyczny Theatre in Wałbrzych
- Konrad Laurel Wreath and Journalists' Award at "Interpretations" 8th Art of Directing Festival in Katowice for directing Georg Büchner's Woyzeck at Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz
- "Polityka" Theatre Passport for 2006, award given for an uncompromising yet clever setting of contemporary feeling of loss in classic stories, as well as for a painterly imagination which allows her to create captivating worlds on the stage.
- Award for staging Winter Journey at 12th Premiere Festival .
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, April 2005.
Update: October 2008.
Translated by: Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer