stage director

Archive for June, 2011

Two visions of death, Martyna Pietras in Gazeta Wyborcza

In Prasqual’s one act play the audience can see Shakespeare’s characters after their death. Ophelia (Natalia Puczniewska), Laertes (very suggestive Tomasz Raczkiewicz) and Hamlet (Tomasz Mazur, not expressive enough) still love, but they love in a different way. Hamlet loves Laertes and laughs at Ophelia’s feelings. Laertes reciprocates Hamlet’s feelings, still physically he also desires his sister. Only Ophelia feelings remain the same, focused on Hamlet. None of these loves will be fulfilled. And it is Ophelia who will take a decision on this matter. (…)
The director, Monika Dobrowlańska created unpretentious scenic vision in which characters’ inner desires and fears reflect their alter ego.
Black, red and white colours on a very modest stage design underline the emotional saturation (or emptiness) in the relationships between the characters. Ophelia’s message is clear, and the possibility of deciphering the following symbolic layers of the opera is its brilliant advantage. “
“Dwie wizje śmierci” [Two visions of death]

Martyna Pietras
Gazeta Wyborcza Poznań

A young Pole is not afraid of improving Shakespeare, Jacek Marczyński in Rzeczpospolita

„Ophelia” has an incredibly clear form. Prasqual divided seven scenes with electronic interludes. In subsequent pictures he contrasted computer sounds with chamber music characterized by matter intricately woven of tiny motives. The music is overlapped by human voice and vocal parts are composed tastefully. The Ophelia’s final lullaby is simply a beautiful – by no means banal – aria.
The director of Poznań performance, Monika Dobrowlañska, respected the ascetics of Prasqual’s work. The characters were added merely ballet doubles to make the action a bit more dynamic, furthermore the director invented video visualization to electronic music to show the world outside. Since what we can see on stage happened in heroes’ souls. Their emotions are skillfully presented by Natalia Puczniewska, Tomasz Raczkiewicz and Tomasz Mazur

“Młody Polak nie boi się poprawiać Szekspira” [A young Pole is not afraid of improving Shakespeare]
Jacek Marczyński
Rzeczpospolita online

Ophelia on the both sides of a mirror, Andrzej Chylewski in Glos Wielkopolski

Music in “Ophelia”, made of instrumental and electronic elements, (music design – Mieczysław Nowakowski) is not innovative, still without any doubts it carries emotional contents of the drama. What is more, it is incredibly difficult for three vocalists (Natalia Puczniewska, Tomasz Raczkiewicz – Laertes and Tomasz Mazur – Hamlet), who, despite the degree of difficulty, deal with it really outstandingly, just like they do with their characters. However, it is not the music that fascinates most in the spectacle.

The main praise goes to the director Monika Dobrowlańska and the stage designer Petra Korink. On one hand detailed, logical and consequent organization of the theatre space with music, on the other hand, compatible with the organization, the idea of flowing, related not only to water, which causes Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare dimension. There are also interesting video projections which complement the narration of the spectacle.

Andrzej Chylewski
Glos Wielkopolski

We had to exist, now we have to die, Szymon Adamczak in Nowa Siła Krytyczna

„Ophelia” spectacle directed by Monika Dobrowlañska and “The four last songs” stage designed by Rudi van Dantzig in The Grand Theatre in Poznañ. A review by Szymon Adamczak in Nowa Siła Krytyczna.
Prasqual’s opera was made by Monika Dobrowlańska very skillfully and consequently in any respect. The musicians conducted by Mieczysław Nowakowski are not directly accompanied by electronic sounds – these sounds make interludes between subsequent scenes. The visual materials presented simultaneously on stage enrich the scenic narration by an additional dimension. They show the real world outside: a river (so clearly associated with Ophelia’s fate) a meadow (initially a stable picture gets broken through by appearance of sinister red stains which resemble blood) as well as a forest (the camera is run in a chaotic way, the wood structure seems as confusing as the relationships between “Ophelia” characters). A praise for Petra Korink for her minimalistic stage design.

Szymon Adamczak
Nowa Siła Krytyczna

Shakespeare transformed, Ewa Schreiber in Ruch Muzyczny

“Ophelia” directed by Monika Dobrowolañska and “The four last songs” stage designed by Rudi van Dantzig in The Grand Theatre in Poznañ. A review by Ewa Schreiber in Ruch Muzyczny.
Prasqual is the author of Ophelia. This artistic nickname belongs to Tomasz Praszczałek (born in 1981) the graduate of The Academy of Music in Poznań, the class run by Grażyna Proskońska – Nawratil, an artist who has been living in Germany for the last several years. In 2006 Wrocław city showed his chamber opera called „Ester”. Since that time Prasqual has written one more opera as well as a theatre – musical work for children (Carp&Bread\ Moses musssingen), none of which (?) was performed in Poland. „Ophelia” is also a chamber music work, still its contents and musical adaptation resulted in a work which is much more significant in character. Libretto by the same composer is a free adaptation of Hamlet by Shakespeare and “The story about three lovers” from the Arabian nights (Bajki tysiaca I jednej nocy?). In the opera these three lovers are Ophelia, Hamlet and Laertes, still Ophelia is a main character. The love triangle is highly surprising: Hamlet is in love with Leartes, Leartes with Ophelia whereas Ophelia loves Hamlet. The spectators who are deeply attached to the prototype can consider these relationships to be an abuse. Still, reading the text it can be easily noticed that the author aims at revealing the ambiguity of behaviour and conversations rather than the characterization of Shakespeare heroes in a new manner. The possessive brotherly love of Leartes or Hamlet’s reserve towards Ophelia being in love with him are perceived differently from this perspective. Unfulfilled love leads to death of all characters but the order of life and death remains unchanged. The heroes die at the beginning of the spectacle. What happens next is shown in the manner of quiet and resignation. Emotions do not influence the course of events, they are only experienced, occasionally even contemplated. Ophelia knows that death is due and she has accepted this fact. She says goodbye to other characters in the last scene singing them a farewell lullaby. Due to the repetitive experiences, the life drama of the three heroes takes some characteristics of a myth.
Libretto text is very concise. Quotation from Hamlet appear(s?)in abridged versions, often they are said by characters other than in an original literary work. The lines of the main character are partially Hamlet’s lines; the three characters also say the monologue of an actor playing the queen in the spectacle performed in Elsinore. In the first scene Ophelia sings Miranda’s songs from “The Sea and the Mirror” by Auden, and in the last scene – the song of Giuseppe Ungaretti; Leartes while conversing with his sister recites e. e. cummings’ poetry. The collection of different modes of expressions creates an interesting language structure – a slow course of archaic Shakespeare’s language is interrupted by chopped phrases from cummings, whereas the repetition of individual words such as “death” or “she loves me” makes the text sound like music.
(…) It was Monika Dobrowlańska’s first experience with directing opera on a stage, and she definitely made a success. Every singer is accompanied by his double – a dancer. The dancers’ movements reinforce the spectacle’s emotional charge and show what cannot be expressed by singers’ body language. Occasionally the characters’ faces are also shown on video screens. Everybody wears their outfit in a given colour: Hamlet – a black one, Leartes – a white one, Ophelia – a red one, and in death scenes – a white one. The stage design is simple and very suggestive: humble signs (for example colourful flowers on Ophelia’s dress train, castle walls in a scene of the dance with Hamlet, a large screen with glittering water at the end of the performance) suggest the scenery in which the drama happens. The curtains, glittering stage background and video projections make the audience think of the metaphor of a mirror which is repeated many times in libretto, a moveable platform on which the dancers dance let the director create an additional drama plan.
Electronic opera fragments got a very interesting setting: video projections accompany the subsequent interludes, thus they present a road which Ophelia can see when she makes her way towards the death. First, the screen shows a white and black picture of a meadow, next some hands collecting flowers and weaving a garland, eventually a narrow path in a forest heading for water. The pictures pass very quickly in front of our eyes, the destination of our journey appears only at the end – we can see the red silhouette of Ophelia on the edge of forest path, next her face and eyes glancing from underwater.
The camera movement is perfectly synchronized with music. What could pose some problems for the audience were these very quick scene changes; frequent curtain falling and raising which occasionally disturbed the spectacle dramaturgy and made us remember that “it is merely the theatre”. Perhaps the spectacle rhythm would be more harmonious if each scene change was preceded by a short pause.
The evening was complemented by the ballet performed to Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder” in neoclassical stage design. (…)
Even though the evening was broken into two parts, each of them have had their separate value. The four last songs introduced the audience into abundant, visual and mobile imagination. First of all, „Ophelia” has left an impression of creating a complete work, a work worth watching several times to be better understood. The spectacle could be an incentive to watch other contemporary operas and strengthen the faith in the value of new compositions. The Grand Theatre in Poznań shows such repertoire rarely and with great caution. Therefore Ophelia performance is a sign that a lot more important things can happen on this stage.

“Szekspir przeobrażony”
Ewa Schreiber
Ruch Muzyczny no 7/03.04.

The carousel of colours, Antonina Chomicz in

The carousel of colours – it was my first thought after the curtain had been raised. Still, two features make it different from a merry carousel in the funfair. Instead of ponies we can see rotating sections with appearing and vanishing actors (just like children jumping onto ponies.)
The driving power of the whole machine was also incredible and truly symbolic: the machine stopped when a pot-bellied character pressed a proper button and merry, smiling parents clapped their hands, it started rotating when two wolf-like characters appeared from the wings to set it in motion. These two characters, seemingly unimportant, decided when the action of “The Thieves” should move forward and when it should stop making the characters and the audience reflect in a given moment of being lost and feeling fear.

„The Thieves”, a work by a German playwright has only appeared on the stage of The Polish Theatre in Poznań. I watched it one day after its premier – it was the second official performance. The actors did not manage to get bored with it, to enter a schematic game, to develop habits, routine scenic movements or interpretations. The spectacle was simply bursting with fresh energy and creativity. (…)

During the spectacle we „meet” a lot of people, for example, a young and beautiful Linda searching for love and visiting her disabled father in a home for the elderly. There is also a typical couple who constantly desires a change, still the spouses have got stuck in the same point. For a change, the second couple avoids any sensational news and dreams about safe living in a routine and scheme. Apart from them on stage appear the key female characters: a girl looking for her father and a woman dreaming about the man who tried to kill her. Female naivety and credulity is a topic which constantly appears in the spectacle. We can see how women destroy themselves with their blind faith, we can see women suffering from low self-esteem unless men estimate their value.

Monika Dobrowlańska, the director of “The Thieves” presented this phenomenon in a brilliant way. Watching this phenomenon from many points of view, even from a funny perspective the director makes us aware of the fact how much women can scarify if they aim at self-fulfillment. Women who seem to fight for their rights, in reality surrender to men in a thoughtless, silly manner.

The spectacle brings new values – it is fresh, it surprises the audience with new stage design solutions and it brutally reveals human weaknesses and a hidden feeling of being lost. Listening to careless “Da da da” by a musical band Formacja Niezywych Schabuf or “Stand by me” by Ben E. King the audience is put to test: “will you accept this tragedy” or “will you reject it with laughter and place it back onto the stage”. The confrontation is very difficult, occasionally overwhelming, still a spectator has a choice. it does not force anybody to make reflections, it says: „do you want it?” “if you do, think it over” Innovation, atmosphere, actors play, emotions, hidden agenda – these things make you feel like jumping into this carousel. But watch out – you cannot forget one thing: once you jump into a carousel surrounded by wolves, it will not be possible to get out of it so easily.

Antonina Chomicz,, 5 January 2011

Who Steals? Patrycja Kowalczyk in Teatralia Poznan

Me and you. We both steal. You keep stealing and perhaps you do not really realize it. You rob me and I rob you. Besides, I rob myself and nobody could ever rob me the way I do it myself. It is because I know myself best and I know what hurts most.
The spectacle by Monika Dobrowlańska can be placed in such a metaphoric box decorated with a ribbon and an inscription: “Who steals?” In „Thieves” written by Dea Loher the characters both steal and are robbed. The drama consists of several seemingly different stories in which people deprive themselves of hope, truth and even faith. A young girl does her best to discover her identity by searching for her father so far unknown. Any person who has started a journey to find the truth, ends up deeply disappointed. An old man waits for his only son who will never come back. A mature woman for more than forty years has not been able to accept the fact of being left by her husband. A middle aged couple struggles desperately to have a better life. And a few more stories in which people search for something, look for something, deprive the others of something and themselves are deprived …
Some characters bear the same surname – Tomason. The idea of Tomason was created by the Japanese artist Genpei Akasegawa. „Tomason is a thing of an unknown destination. An object designated by letter N, of an unknown meaning. (…) Somebody invented it since he needed it for some definite purpose. But it has got lost – this purpose” – says Dea Loher. The stories are told alternately, they occur cyclically so the spectacle is maintained in a film aesthetics. The spectacle is directed by Monika Dobrowlańska in a stage design cooperation with Petra Korink. The artists have already worked on the moving “Mykwa” a spectacle performed in The Polish Theatre. It is once again that they have made a very good performance. Just like in „Mykwa”, the stage design in “Thieves” is great and interesting. The stories take place on a rotating stage, which is turned around for the following episodes by a man wearing a wolf mask. A wolf, the symbol of wild and murky forces, can be a metaphor of evil which is never dormant, what is more it lurks from behind any corner. The music played by Przemysław Witek definitely deserves the audience’s attention. The musician was in the very middle of the rotating stage and he simply excellent played the piano.

Patrycja Kowalczyk
Teatralia Poznañ
5 January 2011