Teatr Kana asks "Is Japan a Lailonia?" as part of their global exploration of the The Universal Worlds of Leszek Kołakowski - an Attempt at a Dialogue.
Photo: Teatr Kana
Teatr Kana asks "Is Japan a Lailonia?" as part of their global exploration of the The Universal Worlds of Leszek Kołakowski - an Attempt at a Dialogue
The project was made up of a play and series of cultural events on Tokyo's most important theatre stages. With "13 Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia for the Young and Old", a collection of short stories by Leszek Kołakowski as a main reference, Teatr Kana presented a performance of "Lailonia" , along with a performance-art action entitled "How We Searched for Lailonia, or the Right to Doubt", readings of essays on Kołakowski's tales and screenings of various Polish animation films that they have inspired.
A meeting with playwright and essayist Jan Zamoyski, (initiator of the film project), workshop sessions with screenings and talks on Teatr Kana's work were also highlights of the project's programme.
The characters of Kołakowski's tales are afraid of remaining anonymous. They do what they can to differ from the crowd, mark their presense and get attention. They believe this to be a condition for their happiness. Actors who embody these characters are somewhat similiar in their motives. A meta-theatrical narrative emerges, in which the actors' temptation to ensure their own being via the stage grows stronger and stronger. Everyone wants to have their five minutes of fame. All the actors want to win, none want to loose. Yet the characters of the tales most often fail in their attempts at being happy.
There is no success here on Earth. Of course, people are famous. Yet, in spite of that, I would claim we are all loosers.
Are we then to accept life as an inevitable failure? Does it mean than any attempts to fight for your own happiness should be abandoned? Do we have any chances of winning the struggle with our own destiny? Have we any influence on its outcome? Kołakowski refuses to answer the question "how to live, in order to be happy?". In an interview, he states,
If I come to terms with the fact that I will not become the pope, or Greta Garbo, if I know that I am not perfect nor am I meant to be perfect, if I do not demand too much of myself, and enjoy the little things, if I am at peace with my small sins, and the consent to such a life does not make me miserable - everybody benefits.
Perhaps we could conclude from this that Kołakowski encourages "a good life of the mediocre", yet he clearly cuts away from giving any straighforward advise.
The performance invited audiences to a kingdom that does not exist on any map, and its inhabitants seem childish. In spite of this we discover they tackle problems which sooner or later become relevant for us all. Apparently naive characters pose questions about the meaning of life, and the paradoxes of our existence. Director Mateusz Przyłęcki and playwright Dorota Semanowicz selected seven tales, broke them up into seven voices, and transferred on to the stage the humour and lightness of Leszek Kołakowski's original work.
The "Lailonia" production of Teatr Kana premiered in September 2009, and it has been declared one of the most surprising and promising adaptations of the Polish philosopher's works. Based on team work and a structure guided by rhythm, the play is open to acting improvisation. Employing a contemporary and sparse language, the reality created on the stage is put forward in a certain theatrical parenthesis. What the actors declare seem to be personal confessions about their own fears, ridicules and phobias. Employing the concept of a game, a convention of theatre within theatre, songs and quite a mocking sense of humour, the play conveys helplessness of human beings and their confusion in the realm of values.
Running since 1979, the theatre was founded by the late Zygmunt Duczyński, who died on the 15 of March, 2006. Two pieces of groundbreaking importance for the group were both based on the works of Venedikt Yerofeyev. "Moskwa-Pietuszki" / "Moscow-Pietushki" from 1989 and "Noc" / "Night" from 1993 have been presented numerous times across the world. They received excellent reviews in papers such as The Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Weekly, The Scotsman, and Backstage. "Noc" / "Night" won Fringe First and the Critics' Award at the Edinburgh Arts Festival. The group performed in all of Poland's major cities and took part in most theatre festivals. The group has been awarded the Artistic Prize of the Mayor of Szczecin. After Zygmunt Duczyński's death, the Teatr Kana team continues its artistic work based on the group's experience as well as the artistic research taken up by the group at the outset. Teatr Kanarun their own Theatre Centre, which is an important nexus of alternative culture and pursues many artistic, educational, reasearch and culture-building activities. The Mayour of Szczecin has also honoured Teatr Kana's promotional and cultural work with the Ambassodor of Szczecin title.
Based on the collection of stories "13 Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia for the Young and Old" by Leszek Kołakowski
Adaptated for the stage and directed by: Mateusz Przyłęcki
Script consultation: Dorota Semenowicz
Costumes: Wanda Kowalska
Photography: Karolina Machowicz
Cast: Bibianna Chimiak, Karolina Sabat, Tomasz Grygier, Dariusz Mikuła, Waldemar Nicek, Hubert Romanowski and Piotr Starzyński
Screenings of animated films
Jan Zamojski is a historian of philosophy, screenwriter and translator. He befriended Teatr Kana in the 1990s, during his cooperation with Teatr Ósmego Dnia and Derevo theatre groups.
Zamojski initiated the adaptation of "13 Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia for the Young and Old" and he is the author of all Lailonia series' screenplays. So far 11 of the screenplays have been produced, and they were presented at numerous festivals in Poland and abroad. In total, the series has collected 31 awards.
Jan Zamojski corresponded with Leszek Kołakowski during his work and received enthusiastic feedback. Kołakowski commented on the script for "Wielki Głód" / "The Great Hunger":
Thanks very much for the "Wielki Głód" screenplay. Your imagination and ablility to transform a story into images impress me a lot. Especially since I write in a quite abstract way, without much detail that would suggest anything visually. But you expand these abstractions into views and I like that a lot. "Wielki Głód" in your project seemed very inventive and funny to me. I truly admire your fantastic imagination!
Born on the 22nd of July 1956 in Poznań, Zamojski graduated from the philosophy department of Leningrad University. He also studied screenwriting at the National Film Television and Theatre School in Łódź, and was granted the doctor of medicine title in 2006, based on his philosophy of medicine dissertation. He lectures in social sciences at the Medical University in Poznań, and is laureate of the Polish Minister of Health's award.
An author and editor in chief of various texts devoted to the history of philosophy of medicine, as well as relations between philosophy and the arts, Jan Zamojski has written numerous short stories and authored radio broadcasts. He often uses his artistict works to illustrate issues discussed in his classes on philosophy and aesthetics. Since 2003, he cooperates with Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań as a specialist on film adaptations of literature.
Films included in the series have been realised in various kinds of animation techniques. Their authors are:
Maciej Wojtyszka, Jacek Adamczak, Jacek Kasprzycki, Krzysztof Kiwerski, Hieronim Neumann, Marek Serafiński, Piotr Muszalski, Paweł Walicki, Łukasz Słuszkiewicz, Zbigniew Kotecki, Tamara Sorbian and Marek Luzar.
They have been produced by the Poznań Studio of Animation.
A special meeting with Zamojski took place alongside the screenings.
"How We Searched for Lailonia, or the Right to Doubt" - Performance-art action
The action took part simultaneously with readings of essays inspired by the 13 tales. It was staged by Teatr Kana together with Jan Zamojski, the author of the essays. Presenting key points of Kołakowski's texts within a broad context of Polish and European philosophy, the action also presented a particular record of the actors' own wanderings.
Fragment of an interview with Jan Zamojski:
My brother and I wasted a lot of time trying to discover which part of the world Lailonia lies in.
(Opening phrase of "13 Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia")
E. Obrębowska-Piasecka: How did your adventure with Lailonia begin?
J. Zamojski: A long long time ago... We were living in Konin then. There were a lot of books in our house. I must have been 8 or 9 years old.
E. Obrębowska-Piasecka: Did you reach for Kołakowski because it said "Tales" on the cover?
J. Zamojski: Yes, but it was no easy reading for me. What captivated me was not really the text itself, but the illustrations of Andrzej Heidrich. Unusual, disturbing... they were very concrete and alegoric in character at the same time. Once I felt intrigued I began to read. But I didn't read it all at once, I was not able to name this book or take it in in a full way.
E. Obrębowska-Piasecka: Did you speak of it with your parents?
J. Zamojski: No. I only spoke with my brother, two years younger than me, who was also reading it (...)
In: E. Obrębowska-Piasecka, "Filozofia animowana" - Rozmowy z prof. Leszkiem Kołakowskim, Maciejem Wojtyszką, Janem Zamojskim / "Animated Philosophy" – Conversations with professor Leszek Kołakowski, Maciej Wojtyszka and Jan Zamojski, Gazeta Wyborcza daily (Gazeta Telewizyjna weekly insert) 11th –17th of October, 2002
Workshops run by Teatr Kana
The sessions aimed to enrich the participants' experience of breath and voice work. Work concentrated mainly on the emission and expression of the voice. The consciousness of sound and vigilant listening are developed through tuning in to the shape, colour and dynamic of sound. Thanks to voice and tone excercises, participants could learn to open up their voice and find a comfortable way of producing loud sound. People were granted the possibility of ridding off their bad habits and emotional blockages which may be impeding with their free use of the voice. The workshops taught excercises which showcased the enjoyment of group singing but could also be subsequently practiced alone. Selected songs of slavic traditional folk music were also taught during the workshop sessions.
Workshops were conducted by Bibianna Chimiak and the Teatr Kana team.
Theatre X (cai)
The theatre was founded in 1992 in Ryogoku, an old district of Tokyo, near the Sumidagawa river. It is a scene known for presenting unique and avantgarde artistic pursuits. The centre has a rich tradition with respect to its contacts with Poland. For many years it has been presenting Polish culture to the Japanese audiences. It has produced and realised special projects devoted to the works of authors such as Witkacy, Bruno Schulz, Witold Gombrowicz and Jerzy Grotowski. It has also hosted Polish artists. Jan Peszek performed at Theatre X (cai) numerous times and conducted workshops and realised a play with Japanese actors. Teatr Provisorium and Włodzimierz Staniewski of the Gardzience theatre also performed on its stage.
Theatre OM - 2
The theatre was founded in 1987 by Shigeo Makabe, an actor, performance artist, director and playwright. Makabe is author of numerous radically experimental performances and the organiser of many festivals, such as Die Pratze M.S.A. Collection, Shitamachi Theater Festival and North Tokyo Avantgarde Theater Festival. He is also the director of Want to see Dance! and Want to see Performance! festivals, and an initiator of the Japan Now festival, which aims to introduce European audiences to the latest achievements and research conducted by contemporary experimental theatres from Japan. His plays have been shown at many prestigious events in the USA, Europe, Asia and Africa. Makabe is laureate of the critics' prize of the International Festival of Experimental Theatre in Cairo.
"Is Japan a Lailonia" - Programme in Tokyo:
25th of November, Theatre X-cai
7 pm "O Bajkach z Lailonii Leszka Kołakowskiego" / "On the Tales of Lailonia by Leszek Kołakowski", a lecture by Jan Zamojski (part I )
7:25 pm world Premiere of "How We Searched for Lailonia" a film directed by Jacek Adamczak, set design by Jan Zamojski
7:40 pm screening of "Beautiful Face" a film directed by Maciej Wojtyszko, set design by Jan Zamojski
8 pm "Lailonia" performance by Teatr Kana, directed by Mateusz Przyłęcki
26th of November, Theatre X-cai
2 pm "O Bajkach z Lailonii Leszka Kołakowskiego" / "On the Tales of Lailonia by Leszek Kołakowski", a lecture by Jan Zamojski (part II )
2:25 pm screening of "O Wielkim Wstydzie" / "On Great Shame" a film directed by Jacek Adamczak, set design by Jan Zamojski
2:40 pm screening of "O Największej Kłótni" / "On the Greatest Quarrel" a film directed by Zbigniew Kotecki, set design by Jan Zamojski
3 pm screening of "O Sławnym Człowieku" / "On a Famous Man" a film produced by Krzysztof Kiwerski, scen. Jan Zamojski
3:30 pm "Lailonia" performance by Teatr Kana, directed by Mateusz Przyłęcki
27th of November, Theatre X-cai
2 pm "O Bajkach z Lailonii Leszka Kołakowskiego" / "On the Tales of Lailonia by Leszek Kołakowski" lecture by Jan Zamojski (part III )
2:30 pm screening of "Jak Bóg Maior Utracił Tron" / "How God Maior Lost His Throne" a film directed by Piotr Muszalski and Paweł Walicki, set design by Jan Zamojski
2:45 pm screening of "O Zabawkach Dla Dzieci" / "On Children's Toys" a film directed by Hieronim Neumann, set design by Jan Zamojski
3 pm screening of "Jak szukaliśmy Lailonii" / "How We Searched For Lailonia" a film directed by Jacek Adamczak, set design by Jan Zamojski
3:30 pm "Lailonia" performance by Teatr Kana, directed by Mateusz Przyłęcki
28th - 29th of November, Theatre OM-2 die pratze
7 pm – 10 pm Theatre and vocal workshops conducted by the actors of Teatr Kana
30th of November, Theatre Theater OM-2 die pratze
7:30 pm a presentation of Ośrodek Teatralny Kana (Kana Theatre Centre)
7:45 pm A few words on Teatr Kana and the "Lailonia" performance
8 pm a brief introduction of Leszek Kołakowski by Jan Zamojski
8:10 pm screening of "Jak Bóg Maior Utracił Tron" / "How God Maior Lost His Throne" a film directed by Piotr Muszalski and Paweł Walicki, set design by Jan Zamojski
8:25 pm a short video recording of the performance-action by Teatr Kana, "Jak szukaliśmy Lailonii"/"How We Searched For Lailonia"
Date: 25th of November- 30th of November, 2011
Venues: Theatre X-cai and Theatre OM-2 die pratze, Tokyo
Organised by: Theatre X (cai), Theatre OM-2 Die Pratze, Teatr Kana
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute