The Polish character, fraught with complexes accumulated through centuries of persecution and oppression, is an anxiety-ridden wreck. Masłowska tries to piece together this wreck for the sake of posterity.
Scene from "No Matter How Hard We Tried"
An topsy-turvy plot touches sheds light on socially significant topics shared by countries of the Eastern European region
The play is based on Dorota Masłowska's novel of the same title and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna from Warsaw's TR Warszawa theatre. Bringing together people from different generations and walks of life in Poland, the play pushes them to face up to the idiosyncracies of their characters through the spectrum of being 'Polish'.
Masłowska's language gives punches throughout, stripping each character of any pretense and baring their souls in tribute to the non-being. One of the characters declares, “I owe a lot to nonexistence and non-being; on one hand I am NOT nobody, but on the other I am not Polish, for instance". The Polish character, fraught with complexes accumulated through centuries of persecution and oppression, is an anxiety-ridden wreck. Masłowska tries to piece together this wreck for the sake of posterity. She picks apart the commercialism of this world, juxtaposing it with the realities of families who barely get on. She mocks celebrities and media personalities - she uses dramaturgy to attack every aspect of modern life in Poland in order to get to the essence of 'Polishness' and to whether it is, after all, a good thing or a bad thing.
Masłowska follows many generations of Poles who have taken it upon themselves to explore Polish identity, but rarely has it been done in so cutting, so brazen a style. Certain themes are familiar to audiences of the same region, inflicted by a similar history.
I confronted different generations: their languages, ways of thinking and functioning, and everyday realities in order to bring out the discord, and the non-existence of the statistical Pole. The lack of a platform on which all of this could meet and be described by the word 'we'. Everything in the play is rather gruesome and exaggerated but I think that for the first time I am actually saying something potentially good. I certainly do not express a directly positive message, but this is the first text in which I didn't write: 'Oh, what an awful country we live in!' On the contrary, it is an affirmation of 'Polishness'. It's an idea that is often mocked nowadays and being Polish is perceived -at least by my generation - as a flaw, or a slap in the face from fate. (...)
- Dorota Masłowska
On the surface, the play appears to be a comedy, however Jarzyna's characteristic style uses humour to carry the sinister aspect of being a Pole in a world where Poland doesn't actually exist. The main characters are a market cashier Halina, her silly daughter the Little Metal Girl and her wheelchair-bound mother. These are women who are not living in a world that no longer exists once it turns out that Granny had been killed during the war and so never gave birth to Halina.
The showings in Brussels were hosted by Bozar, a unique Belgian artistic venue. Paul Dujardin, General Director of Bozar Art Centre speaks of its mission:
(...) for art not to be something abstract and distant, for it to be truly part of the "culture" of a society – and particularly in a city as variegated and international as Brussels – the public must be able to experience it in a way that is both natural and lively. Art and people must find and recognise each other, must interact with and enrich each other. For the greater happiness of all.(...)
"No Matter How Hard We Tried"
play directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna
set design: Magdalena Maciejewska
costumes: Magdalena Musiał
lighting design: Jacqueline Sobiszewski
music arrangement: Piotr Domiński, Grzegorz Jarzyna
video: Cókierek, Pani K.
cast: Roma Gąsiorowska, Maria Maj, Magdalena Kuta, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Aleksandra Popławska, Danuta Szaflarska, Katarzyna Warnke, Rafał Maćkowiak, Adam Woronowicz and Lech Łotocki (radio voice)
Prior to the showings in Brussels, TR toured Europe with "No Matter How Hard We Tried" performances in Minsk and Madrid.
Date: 3rd-4th of December, 2011
Venue: Bozar Art Centre, Brussels
Organised by: Bozar, TR Warszawa
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute