‘We treat Forefathers' Eve seriously. The Belarusian sorcery sound exactly the same as when Mickiewicz heard them’, say Paweł Passini and Patrycja Dołowy, the creators of Forefathers' Eve: Brest Fortress.
Forefathers' Eve is an important part of Polish and Belarusian history, culture, and literary tradition. Like other works by Adam Mickiewicz, they've been a point of reference for many Belarusian artists, so it’s not a surprise that when Paweł Passini proposed stage this Polish drama to the Belarusians, he heard the words: 'But it’s ours!'
We have to look for a common language with Belarus. We have to put in order our memory, those who've died, without it we won’t be able to live, breathe, to rise as a nation.
– says the director, who, together with Patrycja Dołowy, connected romantic verses with the modern history that we know so well from the reportages of this year’s Nobel Prize winner, Svetlana Alexievich.
References to World War II and the dark times of Stalinism are all important in the play.
Mickiewicz opens the memory, gives us tools.
– adds the author of the script, who met with great Belarusian experts on the dziady ritual during her work.
‘We treat him seriously!’ the artists underline. That’s why in their Forefathers' Eve we hear Polish, Belarusian, Russian and Yiddish.
All these languages were present here. In addition, in Brest they expected that the Poles hadn't forgotten. There’s a feeling one needs to have a connection to Poland. For example, I was asked the question: why does Zosia speak so little in Pan Tadeusz? You know why? Because Zosia speaks historical Belarusian better than Polish and is ashamed. Forefathers' Eve in Belarus was something similar to Halka in Haiti.
– explained Passini in an interview with Agnieszka Sural for Culture.pl
Critics discussing the play after its premiere in September 2015 underlined that Passini’s Forefathers' Eve is an important symbolic play, and a perfect example of connecting tradition and modernity. According to Tatiana Gapeieva from the Brest Gazzette, this staging is one of the best that Belarus has seen in the last 20 years.
Some viewers were shocked by such close contact with the audience, by the way the actors performed. The rotating stage was covered with soil and paper, Eastern Europe’s map was torn to pieces and mixed with the soil, which uncovered hidden props.
– says Passini, glad that Forefathers' Eve: Brest Fortress didn’t remain just a festival production.
The play, despite the intervention of the censors, entered the Academic Drama Theatre's repertoire. ‘Maybe they’ll take it out? We don’t want to cut the text, we’re going to say it differently!’, wondered the actors during rehearsals. It’s worth talking about important questions in our neighbours’ history. Especially since we’re not entangled in Belarusian fear, summed up the director.
The play was co-produced by Culture.pl
Author: Anna Legierska, October 2015, transl. by: N. Mętrak-Ruda, December 2015.