'Our staging is raw and simple. I believe the 19th century is already behind me', stated Michał Zadara about Lilla Weneda, a romantic drama by Juliusz Słowacki presented in contemporary military costumes at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw.
This is the young director’s second attempt after Fantazy to stage a production of the romantic poet's plays, which are not often performed in Polish theatres. 'In my opinion, Polish theatre has a problem with Słowacki, because he wrote strong characters for women. In his plays, women convey the drama’s meaning, and theatre – as well as film – still has a problem with women being anything other than an object of affection for men. For this simple reason, Polish theatre has not yet lived up to Słowacki’s plays. In Lilla Weneda there are three important female roles and each of these women holds the fate of their country in their hands', the director explained in an interview with Anna Czerniawska, a dramatist.
The Warsaw production features Barbara Wysocka and Paulina Holtz in the main roles. Bartosz Porczyk, an actor beloved in Wrocław, made his debut at the Powszchny Theatre. Edward Linde-Lubaszenko was also on stage.
The story takes place during a war between two mythical Polish tribes: the Weneds and the Lechits. Michał Zadara sets the play in the reality of the 20th century, using Juliusz Słowacki’s play as the key to the 21st century state of mind. There are elements of action movies as well as cartoons. The action takes place in a time resembling the German occupation and the era of Stalinism, because as Zadara points out, the war is still going on in our minds.
Lilla Weneda is a foreshadowing of the 20th century in its film-like plot, harsh dialogues, and brutal course of action. It is a tragedy with very strong comic motifs. In its presentation of people and their personal dramas it resembles Beckett, therefore our staging is raw and simple. I believe the 19th century is already behind me.
'It was a successful premiere', Witold Mrożek commented in Gazeta Wyborcza:
The idea is plain and simple. Embed a mythical battle in the well-known framework of war movies, which along with stories of the occupation passed on to us by our grandparents, have permanently shaped the imagination of generations. Shiny officers' boots, perfectly matched forage caps. The director throws in a massive amount of untidy gadgets – field telephones, radio transmitters, through which they receive reports from the battlefield. The Lechici are a destroying force marching forwards. The only thing that’s missing is for the rifle-armed proto-Polish warriors to respond to their leader Lech’s commands by clicking their heels and yelling ‘Jawohl!’. Zadara plays with these familiar film associations, the poetics of sensation and pathos.
The production was co-financed as a part of the ‘Live Classics’ Competition for The Theatrical Adaptation of a Classic of Polish Literature. The competition organized by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage along with the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute is one of the most important events organized in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of public theatre in Poland in 2015.
Lilla Weneda, directed by Michał Zadara, Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, premiered August 29th 2015.
Edited by: AL, September 2015, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska, September 2015