The Rats by the prominent German playwright Gerhart Hauptmann directed by Maja Kleczewska for the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw was one of the most anticipated premieres of 2014.
The talented interpreter of plays by Chekhov, Shakespeare, and the Austrian Nobel-winning author Elfriede Jelinek decided to now tackle a playwright who is hardly recognized in Poland. An apt observer of the misery of social life, the German Noble-winning author with a Silesian background used to repeat that he wants to bring forth a rebellion that will enrage audiences and politicians.
I only follow this clue and try to translate Hauptmann's world into a reality I am familiar with.
– the director said in a conversation with Culture.pl
Joining forces with her permanent dramaturg Łukasz Chotkowski, Kleczewska moved the play from the early 20th century to contemporary Warsaw, more precisely – to the politically engaged stage of the Powszechny Theatre, whose new director Paweł Łysak invites artists and spectators alike to take part in heated discussions, for instance about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Kleczewska also joined the debate and introduced the real stories of Ukrainian women working in Poland under the table to her staging of The Rats. How are they treated?
We also ask who can nowadays afford to employ a housekeeper from the Eastern countries, who are the beneficiaries of the 1989 political transformation, the residents of gated communities with swimming pools and parking spaces. What do they represent and what do they think about the world surrounding them?
The authors of the performance also take a close look at the cultural activists and creators, artistic elites, and celebrities who assume the roles of experts.
Hauptmann is concerned with his contemporary theatre, the directors, actors, co-creators of that world, and on the other hand he enters the staircase of a tenement house inhabited by people without any resources, living in poverty and sorrow. Just like Hauptmann, she tries to capture that tension in the world which wants to talk about art, culture, and drama, but prefers Schiller's language to that of the street.
In an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, Łukasz Chotkowski recalled that “Hauptmann fought a rebellious battle for theatre throughout his life, he was a total troublemaker. People got into fistfights at his premieres. A review of Before Sunrise said it was “intellectual mayhem.” During The Weavers, Wilhelm II slammed the door when leaving his box," we find out from Iza Szymańska's text.