Wiktor Rubin (real name: Paweł Wojtczuk) is on the forefront of post-dramatic theatre, seeking to engage audiences through radical means. He is a long-term collaborator of Bartek Frąckowiak and Jolanta Janiczak.
Theatre director, born in 1978 in Siedlce.
Wiktor Rubin was born in 1978 in Siedlce. He studied Sociology at the Jagiellonian University, and Directing at the Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Kraków, as well as philosophy. He is a triple recipient of the Minister of Education scholarship and an Estreicher scholar.
Before starting work as an independent director, he worked as an assistant to Krystian Lupa, Mikołaj Grabowski, and Paweł Miśkiewicz. As part of his diploma, he staged the first act of The Incorrect According to Fantazy (Niepoprawni wg Fantazego), based on Juliusz Słowacki’s drama (PWST Kraków, 2004).
Rubin presents 'post-dramatic' theatre to his audience, based on specially prepared scripts. He mainly alters existing texts, filling them with timely comments and references. The director often designs a play with the intention of engaging audience members, and encouraging them, through, e.g. actor’s actions, to employ a critical stance. He uses themes of social conflict, violence, and anthropological studies of civilization.
In 2006, he co-produced A Streetcar Named Desire in partnership with the playwright Bartek Frąckowiak, which marked the beginning of their long-term collaboration. The two worked together on a large number of performances, including Terrordrom Breslau based on Tima Staffel’s novel (Polski Theatre in Wrocław, 2006), Juliusz Słowacki’s Lilla Weneda (Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, 2007) Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening (Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz, 2007) and Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles (Polski Theatre in Wrocław, 2008).
In Terrodrom Breslau, described as ‘political fiction’, the viewers had the opportunity to experience the radical experiments that are typical of Rubin – they were filmed by the performing actors, and thus directly engaged in the events on stage. The intention behind this move was to point to the dangers related to the behaviour of media and politicians, and their relentless drive to manipulate their onlookers.
Following this cooperation with Frąckowiak, Rubin started working with Jolanta Janiczak (who is also his partner in his private life), their first mutual production being The Doll (Lalka) by Bolesław Prus, staged at the Polski Theatre in Wrocław (2008). The director-dramatist duo incorporated fragments and themes from other literary pieces into this production, including Fear (Strach) by Jan Tomasz Gross, Forefathers' Eve (Dziady) by Adam Mickiewicz, The Shoemakers (Szewcy) by Witkacy, and Bruno Schulz’s The Treatise on Mannequins (Traktat o manekinach), to the end of scrutinising the condition of Polish society.
Scene from Tsarina Catherine, photo: Michał Walczak
The duo has been interested in studying and presenting biographies of women, especially those crossing the conventional boundaries of behaviour. Apart from a number of collaborations that were adapted from existing works (Marek Hłasko’s Killing the Second Dog, Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, Orgy by Pier Paolo Pasolini), Rubin directed several plays written by Janiczak: Joanna the Mad, Queen (Joanna szalona; Królowa) or Tsarina Catherine (Caryca Katarzyna). The two also collaborated on the staging of Michael J. Said So (Tak powiedział Michael J.), an alternative telling of the famous pop star's story, which presents him as a mythical god, a human being, an animal, Peter Pan, and Father-Judge, all at once. Witold Mrozek wrote:
Because we all need happy endings, Rubin and Janiczak finish telling the story of Tsarina Catherine as she rises the throne. In an exaggerated final scene a phrase comes back: „we fulfill dreams”. At the very moment of coronation, tsarina wears a stunning white gown. There is also Alice from Wonderland (Dagna Dywicka) wearing exactly the same gown and showing up out of nowhere in the crucial moment to give a helping hand to Catherine. It is hard to find a more vivid punch line for this funny and at the same time cruel tale about pursuing one's goals. (Gazeta Wyborcza Daily, 16.05.2013)
Together with Jolanta Janiczak, he took part in third edition of the socio–cultural project Wielkopolska: Rewolucje / Wielkopolska : Revolutions.
They collaborated with the elderly residents of a nursing home in Lisówki. Several dozen of its occupants take part in many activities on a regular basis, such as theatre, creative writing, and polls for the most beautiful couple. The artists stayed in the house for about one month in order to create an artistic project together with its residents. Under the direction of the artists, they performed as fictional characters or as themselves. The script of the performance depended on the acting skills of the amateur actors, their experiences and biographies – true or fictional, mediated by memory and forgetfulness.
In 2014 Wiktor Rubin together with Jolanta Janiczak were granted a prestigious Paszport / the Passport Award of the Polityka magazine in the category of theater. The jury wrote:
for thrilling spectacles, that through revealing mechanisms of constructing official biographies, tell both about old and contemporary times. For their language that mixes times, perspectives and experience, being uncovering and exceptionally intensive at the same time.
The same year Rubin produced two plays. The first one was Towiańczycy królowie chmur / The Tovianists, Kings of the Clouds at the Narodowy Teatr Stary im. Heleny Modrzejewskiej / Helena Modrzejewska National Old Theatre in Kraków. The artists took the theme of the Circle of Godly Affairs, a cult founded in the 19th-century Parisian emigre community by Andrzej Towiański, and created a shattering, surrealist vision. (National Old Theatre's materials)
The second one was Detroit. Historia ręki / Detroit. The History of a Hand for the Teatr Polski im. Hieronima Konieczki / Hieronim Konieczka Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz. In 2015 Rubin directed Sprawa Gorgonowej / The Gorgonowa Affair written by Jolanta Janiczak (Helena Modrzejewska National Old Theatre in Kraków. The story is inspired by a famous case of Rita Gorgonowa, accused of murdering her lover's daughter during the interwar period. Łukasz Gazur wrote in his review:
This interrogation uses no painkillers. Learning the intimate details of a woman's life her tale of giving up children, abortions, and seducing men is like a vivisection. We enter the depths of the main protagonist – we delve into her psyche, explore her veracity (the results of a polygraph machine are projected), and even the insides of her body (colonoscopy records). (…) All this is an intense experience for the viewer, who sits in the middle of the whole trial, torn between the judge and the accused. (…) The play grows to the dimensions of a metaphor for the patriarchal system, of which the woman becomes the victim. (Dziennik Polski Daily, 02.04.2015)
In 2016 Rubin created Każdy dostanie to, w co wierzy / Everybody gets what they believe in (Zygmunt Hübner Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw) based on Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.
- Grand Prix Audience Award and Jury Award at 41st Kontrapunkt National Overview of Small Form Theatre in Szczecin for the performance Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty at Krypta Theatre in Szczecin
- Grand Prix at the 5th Premier Festival in Bydgoszczy for Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty at Krypta Theatre in Szczecin
- Title of Artistic Event of the Festival bestowed by the Board of Powszechny Theatre at the 13th National Festival of Pleasant and Unpleasant Plays in Łódź for Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty at Krypta Theatre in Szczecin
- Distinction for Lalka / The Doll (together with Jolanta Janiczak) of the Polish Theatre in Wrocław at the 34. Opole Theatre Confrontations „The Polish Classics”;
- The Award of the President of Gdańsk for directing Orgia / Orgy at the Wybrzeże Theatre;
The Passport Award of Polityka magazine in the category of theatre (together with Jolanta Janiczak);
Grand Prix for Caryca Katarzyna / Tsarina Catherine of the Stefan Żeromski Theatre in Kielce at the 49. Kontrapunkt National Overview of Small Form Theatre in Szczecin;
Grand Prix for Caryca Katarzyna / Tsarina Catherine of the Stefan Żeromski Theatre in Kielce at the 9th Contemporary Plays Festival R@Port
The Złamany Szlaban Main Award for Caryca Katarzyna / Tsarina Catherine of the Stefan Żeromski Theatre in Kielce at the 25th International Theatre Festival "Bez Granic" ("Without Borders") in Cieszyn.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, May 2008; updates: MMP, November 2009, AL, December 2013, October 2014, GS; September 2016 (ND).
Transl. and edited by AM, January 2013