Theatre director, multiple award winner, author of the famous Korzeniec. He made his first steps in theatre world under Krystian Lupa. Remigiusz Brzyk’s theatrical output comprises great classical literature, political boulevard plays, and crime stories.
He graduated from the Faculty of Puppet Theatre at the State Higher Theatre School in Wrocław (1995) and from the Faculty of Theatre Directing at the Ludwik Solski State Higher Theatre School in Kraków (1998), where he studied in a cohort led by Krystian Lupa.
In 1996, he was the assistant to Lupa during the staging of Thomas Bernhard’s Ritter, Dene, Voss (Polish title: Rodzeństwo, Stary Theatre in Kraków). Brzyk debuted as a director in 1998, with the performance The Form based on F. Dostoevsky’s writings, staged at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź; soon afterwards he returned to the same stage with Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex (1998) and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (2000), for which he received the Konrad Laurel at the Festival of the Art of Theatre Directing in Katowice.
This play, staged in contemporary Poland is a true explosive, which just needs to be lit. This was done by Remigiusz Brzyk, yet another talented alumnus of the Kraków Theatre School. – wrote Roman Pawłowski – He created a performance which has the potential to blow up the Polish political reality. Its value lies in a precise analysis of the collective hysteria which we have been experiencing in Poland for the past decade. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about witches, Jews, communists, or security police officers – the mechanism is always the same (Gazeta Wyborcza, 29.02.2000).
In 1999, he also staged The Slaughterhouse by Sławomir Mrożek (Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków).
Brzyk inherited from Lupa the ability to work with an actor and a distaste for cheap dramatic tricks and use of excessive means. His shows concentrate on characters’ psychological motivation and a thorough analysis of the literary material, hence the selection of texts he stages: Dostoevsky, Sophocles, Miller, and Mrożek.
Another trait he took from his master is the method of creating a dramatic world – which is entirely rooted in the director’s imagination. That is why Brzyk, just like Lupa, usually designs his own scenography, and sometimes personally selects music. He aims to conjure a reality which is complete and coherent.
Remigiusz Brzyk has an intuition for casting, he is also able to consequently build relations between the characters. – Olga Katafiasz, a critic for Didaskalia, wrote about Brzyk’s staging of The Cherry Orchard at the Stary Theatre in Kraków – Brzyk is able to select, lead, and help them [actors] in creating genuine characters. He remains faithful to Chekhov’s text, introducing hardly any shortcuts. Nonetheless, he embellishes each scene with interesting, unexpected situations and is able to paint each of them in its own temperature, fill each look and gesture with meaning.
Brzyk has directed contemporary texts: at Stary Theatre in Kraków, he showed Tsar Nicholas by Tadeusz Słobodzianek (2002), at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk – Dialogi o zhivotnykh (Dialogues About Animals) by Aleksandr Zheleztsov (2003). He created an interesting interpretation of Mary Stuart by Wolfgang Hildesheimer (2003, Polski Theatre in Wrocław), with a magnificent lead role by Halina Skoczyńska.
Remigiusz Brzyk’s stagings are like the Dutch masters’ paintings, where attention is drawn both to the main, central characters, and to the background figures, which seemingly act only as a backdrop. – Rafał Bubnicki wrote – This performance is a precisely constructed polyphonic composition, in which the core theme, i.e. the last days of the Scottish queen are inextricably intertwined with the story of an executioner and his helper, of a doctor and pharmacist, of the queen’s secretary and maids. The director plays this multilayered story out panoramically. (Rzeczpospolita, 15.04.2003)
Brzyk also directed in the Jaracz Theatre in Łódź, where together with Zdzisław Jaskuła, he realised The Rogues’ Trial by Ariano Suassuna (2004) and Mother War after Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children (2004). The director realised The Petty Demon by Fyodor Sologub at Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw (2005), while in Polski Theatre in Wrocław – William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (2007). His following show was an interestingly staged socialist play Grinder Kurhan's Brigade by Vašek Káňa, prepared for Nowy Theatre in Łódź (2008) – this text in fact constituted an inaugural premiere on this stage, founded in 1949 by Kazimierz Dejmek.
Leszek Karczewski wrote:
Grinder Kurhan's Brigade is not a play about socialism at all. It is not a tribute, mockery, a provocation, or a display of a specimen from a museum of peculiar ideas. Brzyk’s Grinder Kurhan's Brigade is a show about the foundation myth of Nowy Theatre. About the dreams about it. Actors play opposite cardboard, life-sized figures of characters from the inaugural Brigade. Thanks to archival footage, Józef Pilarski and Kazimierz Dejmek talk to each other once again. (Gazeta Wyborcza - Łódź edition 2008, no. 268).
Korzeniec – a crime story from Sosnowiec
According to critics, Korzeniec – Brzyk’s show directed for Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec which received awards at all major festivals – was a successful attempt of an ambitious regional theatre, an entertaining form of theatre, but also one posing important social questions. The show was created in 2012, based on Zbigniew Białas’s retro detective story published a year before. On the eve of the First World War, a journalist from a local newspaper tries to solve the mystery of death of Alojzy Korzeniec, a tiler.
In Korzeniec, the director Remigiusz Brzyk and playwright Tomasz Śpiewak found a material for a performance on the thirst for sensation which prevents us from experiencing history. It would seem that they tell a story of a mysterious murder in Sosnowiec with naivety and simplicity, as if nothing really happened. The plot doesn’t even take place in Sosnowiec, but in Sosnowice – following the writing on a tile which inspired Prof. Białas to write the novel, says (‘A. Korzeniec – Sosnowice’). […] The modernly, soberly sentimental Korzeniec by Remigiusz Brzyk and Tomasz Śpiewak combines a detective narrative with a story about how we miss out on actual events when generating the news – in this case, the outbreak of World War One, the actual beginning of 20th century – Joanna Derkaczew wrote in Gazeta Wyborcza.
Korzeniec was also adapted for a film, co-directed by Marcin Koszałka for TVP Kultura channel.
One Upon a Time, there was a Pole, Pole, Pole, and a Devil
Brzyk’s collaboration with Paweł Demirski – one of the major Polish playwrights – reverberated in the expert press. In 2013, at Osterwa Theate in Lublin, he directed a text whose author refers to as a political socialist play – One Upon a Time, There Was a Pole, Pole, Pole, and a Devil. In an interview by Piotr Guszkowski, the director explained:
The most poignant is the fact that Paweł wrote this text a few good years ago. When the play first premiered in Wałbrzych in 2007, it was criticised for its journalistic character, it was said that it would soon become outdated. Meanwhile, these days it is even more painful, bitter, and spot-on in exposing our traumas and insecurities than before. Contrary to some claims, the Polish demons conjured in it do not fade – they are doing great and revel. For me, There was a Pole is an excellent, ironic, humorous diagnosis of our beloved Third Polish Republic. We may not remember anymore who Bishop Paetz was, however the problem of pedophilia in the Church is still present. The number of Euro-orphans keeps growing. There seems to be even more celebrities in our domestic show business and bad taste that emanates from them. Football fans stay strong.
Jarosław Cymerman wrote after the premiere:
Suspended between life and death, we observe the characters struggling with Polish insecurities and traumas, the trivial everyday life blends with the major events of Polish 20th century history, while the colloquial language – with fragments of ambiguous poetry. In this ruthlessly hilarious play, quite serious questions continue to surface – what has happened to our community, what is the contemporary Poland and Poles like?
A contemporary emcee
In 2013, together with Tomasz Śpiewak, Brzyk realised Games of Polish Youth, a dramatic fantasy on the beginnings of the scouting movement and its founders. This performance by students of the fourth year at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw was awarded at the 31st Festival of Theatre Schools in Łódź. Another outcome of a collaboration between the director and playwright was the performance Top Dog, in which Śpiewak and Brzyk reinterpreted a script of the 1970s cult film by Feliks Falk.
Jan Bończa-Szabłowski noticed in Rzeczpospolita that the performance could be perceived as a universal tale about people’s dreams and unfulfilled desires.
About the fact that almost every day we are subjected to tests, deluded by hopes, lured by promises. Sometimes, Brzyk’s performance becomes a fairy tale with a surprising conclusion. The emcee Lutek Danielak, the main character played by Wojciech Błach, dreams of hosting a grand ball, because he’s not a human scum, like his cinematic prototype. He falls victim to a ‘cross-eyed luck.’*
The director does away with cheap sensationalism, and purposefully mocks the values preached by contemporary celebrities. Characters from their world or media are magnificently played by Magda Boczarska, Agnieszka Roszkowska, Andrzej Konopka, Sebastian Pawlak, and Piotr Żurawski
With Koń, kobieta i kanarek (A Horse, a Woman, and a Canary), the thriving duo of authors returned to Zagłębie Theatre to tell a story of a patriarchal mining family. As we read on the theatre’s website, it is neither a local nor a historical play. Using mining as a backdrop, they create a modern tale about violence against women and their (limited) rights to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In Tomasz Śpiewak’s story, a horse, a woman, and a canary become a metaphor of a family.
Can we believe a story told by a Dummy with asthma and a club foot? He will guide the spectators around the town lying at the foot of the mine which is the setting of the plot of the latest show Koń, kobieta i kanarek. The title of the play is a reference to rulings implemented in 1950s, under which women, horses, and canaries were not allowed to work underground (the miners usually combine these bans under the customary name 3K – standing for first letters of Polish names for horse, woman, and canary).
The show was appreciated by the theatre circles, rewarding the director with the prestigious Konrad Laurel at the Interpretacje Theatre Festival in Katowice. It was also adapted for Television Theatre.
In 2015, Brzyk directed a diploma show by students of the Acting Faculty of the Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Kraków, Long Live the War!!! by Paweł Demirski. As the description on the school’s website says:
This text was inspired by a series based on a novel by Janusz Przymanowski, Four Tank Men and a Dog […] It is a play ‘against’ – against the propaganda in the series, against the mythologisation of Poles’ heroism, against appropriating history. And even against contemporary contemporary war movies which glorify war and represent it as a play or a video game. It is important to show that which cannot be found, which was forgotten or consciously rejected – in order to be able to salvage it despite the odds.
In 2015, Remigiusz Brzyk directed Snow White and Russian Red by Dorota Masłowska (Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre in Kalisz) and The Promised Land by Władysław Reymont at the Kazimierz Dejmek Nowy Theatre in Łódź. Michał Kmiecik wrote on the theatre’s website:
The Promised Land is a story about a birth of a monster. About birth of a city, of an industry, and about bloodthirsty capitalism. About the industrial magnates and their slaves, who would be drawn to the city by the village, in search of work and better life situation. Contrary to the popular opinion, the protagonists of Reymont’s novel are not three young guys who want to start their own business. The real protagonist of The Promised Land is Łódź, an emerging city of great factories, great fortunes, great palaces, and great poverty. A monster which promises a better life but is unable to fulfill this promise.
Brzyk also staged two novels by a winner of Polityka’s Passport, Ziemowit Szczerek, adapted by Michał Kmiecik. In 2015, at Juliusz Osterwa Theatre in Lublin he showed Mordor’s Coming To Eat Us Up, or A Secret History of the Slavs, and in 2016 – Route S7 at Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec. Aneta Kyzioł wrote about Mordor’s Coming in Polityka:
The dramatic adaptation of Ziemowit Szczerek’s novel is a type of a revue, formally, the performance resembles a show by the Strzępka-Demirski duo: in the seemingly indefinitely multiplied scenes, different time perspectives as well as real and fictional characters mix, and easy irony and journalistic theses are juxtaposed with a deeper (auto)analysis, gravity, and true pain. (Polityka, 23.03.2015)
*phrase referring to the title of Andrzej Kotkowski’s cult comedy film Zezowate szczęście.
Awards and distinctions
- 1999 – Gold Mask in Łódź for best director of the season;
- 2001 – Wojciech Statuette at the 41st Kalisz Theatre Meetings in appreciation of collective effort in the show The Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Jaracz Theatre in Łódź; Konrad Laurel and Audience Award at the Interpretacje Theatre Festival in Katowice for directing The Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Jaracz Theatre in Łódź;
- 2002 – Group award for creators of the staging of Memorial Prayer by Grigori Gorin at the Nowy Theatre in Łódź at the 42nd Kalisz Theatre Meetings;
- 2004 – Gold Mask in Łódź for directing The Rogues’ Trial by Ariano Suassuna at the Jaracz Theatre in Łódź; Award from the Wrocław Society of Friends of Theatre for the staging of Mary Stuart by Wolfgang Hildesheimer at the Polski Theatre in Wrocław;
- 2009 – Gold Mask in Łódź for Grinder Kurhan's Brigade by Vašek Káňa at Nowy Theatre in Łódź; Grand Prix at 1st International Theatre Festival ‘Postsoc Festival’ in Kraków for Grinder Kurhan's Brigade by Vašek Káňa at the Nowy Theatre in Łódź;
- 2010 – Honorary Medal ‘Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’;
- 2012 – Main Prize for directing Korzeniec at Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec at 12th National Contemporary Drama Festival ‘Rzeczywistość przedstawiona’ in Zabrze; Audience Whim at the Wałbrzych Theatrical Whims for Korzeniec at the Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec;
- 2013 – Gold Mask in category performance of the year for Korzeniec at Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec;
- 2014 – Konrad Laurel, main prize at 16th National Interpretacje Theatre Festival in Katowice for Koń, kobieta i kanarek (A Horse, a Woman, and a Canary); award in the television theatre category for scenography in Korzeniec at 14th ‘Two Theatres’ Festival of Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Television Theatre; honorary mention for a visual concept of the performance One Upon a Time, There Was a Pole, Pole, Pole, and a Devil at 49th Small Theatre Forms Festival ‘Kontrapunkt.’
Text originally written in Polish in 2002.
Update: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, November 2009; ND, December 2016, transl. AM, December 2016.