stage director

Behind the curtain of amnesia, Agnieszka Misiewicz about Mykwa in Teatralia Poznań

Owing to the publication of Jan Tomasz Gross’ Neighbours a dramatic matter came out. A Pole killed his neighbour, a Polish Jew. Does not matter who gave an order. Murder is murder, there is no excuse. However there are still people who justify values and behaviours from those cruel times finding excuses for their actions.

Jan Sapieżka, the main character of Piotr Rowicki’s “Mykwa”, belongs to those people. He lies on his deathbed and would like to die having clean conscience but the ghosts of his past make it difficult. Initially, one can take pity on this dying elderly man. He fought against the occupying forces, fought for a free country, he had to spend a few years imprisoned. But it is a partial truth. We learn the darker side later since Sapieżka deletes it from his awareness for a longer time. He took part in the Holocaust. Well, he wanted to survive. What tracks will his life leave? His family which for the sake of comfort lets the curtain of amnesia fall down. There will be a grandson – a fascist and his daughter living in the lap of consumption. Or maybe there will be a raped girl, murdered with his hands? They are gone but the traumatic experience remain. It will not gone despite the character’s death. The dirt of such misdeeds will not be purified in any mykwa…

Monika Dobrowlańska turned the drama into the language of the theatre. She displays how things happening around Sapieżka influence his conscience. He performance has as if two plains with a border being blurred between them. On stage we can see action happening here and now as well as retrospection from the past. The priest is deceitfully similar to once murdered Jew, a granddaughter is a spitting image of Sara hurt so much by the main character.

Perta Korink’s stage design is of great importance here. The stage inclined in the audience direction recalls us the ground soaked with the once shed blood. In the middle an apple tree whose fruit got stuck in Sara’s mouth, a girl raped in a brutal manner. Beneath Sapieżka lying on a comfortable bed as if blended into his small world. Each element seems to remember those cruel times. The witness also remember the cruelty, we suddenly notice them sitting in the first row. They turn towards the audience telling about inhumane events they saw. They saw the cruelty, still they seem to be next to the whole drama. Sapieżka is the only one who participated directly in the massacre, but he does not want to remember.

He has a long and painful way to go through – from amnesia and a total denial of guilt through an attempt to excuse himself and finally self-awareness of being a murderer. Wojciech Kalwat presented this process brilliantly, presenting the personality of the main character – full of hostility and aggression. Krzyś is the heir of the worst grandfather’s features. He hates the Jews, does not have anything against hurting other people even the closest ones. Łukasz Chrzuszcz built a distinct character endowed with exaggerated movements, his fanatic speeches and angry gestures are annoying and repulsive.

The events in Jedwabne are blurred even today, this shameful chapter of history does not belong to easy subjects. The same refers to this spectacle. The Polish Theatre managed to present the historic plot in an interesting and tactful manner. Mykwa brings clear and heart-braking message – maybe it is a result of the fact it does not eulogize tragedy of hundred anonymous victims. It presents the drama in a different way – it shows an individual with blooded hands. A compatriot – an executioner … Nobody can leave this spectacle having pleasant thoughts in mind.

Agnieszka Misiewicz
Teatralia Poznań
26 May 2009

Comments are closed.