Woodcutters, based on the novel by Austrian author Thomas Bernhard, was realized by the Polski Theatre in Wrocław.
The play’s plot takes place over a dinner shared by old friends from an informal art group. The gathering soon turns into a funeral meal after the death of one of the protagonists.
The participants do not so much reminisce about the deceased, but allow themselves to express their inner or subconscious fears, grudges, damages, and claims. The former bohemians have exchanged rebellious energy for state-funded contracts, lavish salaries, awards, and steady jobs.
– the creators of the performance describe it.
Bernhard criticizes the situation in which the radical attitude and struggle towards a different world order that characterizes young artists vanishes with time. The artists begin to cooperate with the cynical and ignorant authorities and make compromises in order to pursue their career paths. This is a play about the problems of the cultural workers and the mechanisms that rule the art world.
– Krystian Lupa said during the press conference for the play.
The director added that for a while he had been fascinated by stories of groups of people who want to create their own utopian worlds:
It doesn’t have to be about artists, it could also be dreamers, the brawlers of our everyday reality. These attempts to forge a brand new world are sometimes burdened by mistakes, but none of that would take place if it wasn’t for a utopia.
This is not the first time that Lupa has taken on a work by Bernhard. The director is considered an expert on theatrical adaptations of this author’s works; he is also a member of the board of the Thomas Bernhard Foundation. He has previously adapted his novel Kalkwerk, and directed the plays Immanuel Kant and The Siblings (Ritter, Dene, Voss), and others.
Lupa makes simple but masterful choices. Those who mock the never-ending rehearsals and lengthy improvised sessions are reminded that he knows how to make theatre. There isn’t a moment when we may forget that he is fluent in the dramatic matter. The duration of Lupa’s performances has become almost legendary, yet the first two hours of Woodcutters pass by before we even notice. Regardless of whether Lupa presents a crafty dialogue by the table that borders on tragicomedy, or if he lets its participants flood us with an alcohol-fueled stream of emotions, everything is precisely composed, and excellently written and played.
– Witold Mrozek wrote in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
The premiere of Woodcutters took place on October 23, 2014 on the Jerzy Grzegorzewski stage of the Polski Theatre in Wrocław.
- Thomas Bernhard – Woodcutters, adaptation, direction, scenography and light direction: Krystian Lupa, costumes: Piotr Skiba, music: Bogumił Misala, video: Karol Rakowski and Łukasz Twarkowski. cast: Piotr Skiba, Halina Rasiakówna, Wojciech Ziemiański, Marta Zięba, Jan Frycz, Ewa Skibińska, Bożena Baranowska, Andrzej Szeremieta, Adam Szczyszczaj, Michał Opaliński, Marcin Pempuś, Anna Ilczuk, Krzesisława Dubielówna
Sources: PAP, press materials; ed. PZ, October 2014, transl. AM January 2015