stage director

What shall be done with the evil? Andrzej Górny about Mykwa

Having read Jan Tomasz Gross’ book and heard discussions about Polish anti-Semitism which went through the media during last years, we know a lot about Jedwabne massacre. Still, the subject of overlapping German and Russian occupation and the counteracting forces supporting Polish – Jewish communities, which get activated during occupation, has not been presented at length yet. You can also see it in the performance where soldiers of both armies appear as if deus ex machine, a flashing interjection which does not bring anything new to the play. Well it does not have to… Articles on history and politics make reconnaissance in history, theatre stage shows something different. The articles offer insight into psychosocial conditions, into the impact of stereotypes etc. – the theatre takes a deep look into a human being who struggles with his past by himself. To make it clear, the director Monika Dobrowlańska, does not give up the sharp blade of historical or political elements, referring the spectacle to the today’s reality.

Let’s examine what makes the performance so prestigious – considering such a difficult main plot. Firstly, the insight into the man – the murderer. We can observe how the crime is experienced by the man who committed it. Such approach is extraordinary since we have to find out about a crime and a victim through the criminal who struggling with himself recalls his misdeed shortly before the death. When his time has come and he wants to know who he is, at any cost. How the most important deals were made. Jan Sapiezka (Wojciech Kalwata’s great role) defends himself as if in a good cause. His family, wife (Małgorzata Peczyńska) brothers (Sylwester Woroniecki and Zbigniew Waleryś), who should feel guilty of co-participation in the crime try to wave the common past away. Sapieżka is the only one who accepts challenge. He does not neglect anything. Being ruthlessly open he wants to get through the things which cannot be deleted from his life. He converses with his past in many different ways. The dialogue is fierce, he sometimes denies then again comes back to things that torture him. He stands or lies constantly in the very middle of the vast space of the stage. In the background behind his bed there is a lonely, slightly bushy tree. What a painful thorn, Sapieżka cannot change anything in his bitter helpless existence. He must be the man he is as long as he lives. How could he purify himself? Where?
When he makes his dialogues we are less and less sure if he converses with himself or with others – or maybe with anything which happens to be around, closer or farther. He converses even with this undisturbed space freed by Petra Korink from any architectural limitations of a theatre building. This space is so intense in its presence that it is sensed as something real and concrete, simultaneously not having the end – just like the world.

We can still hear Sapieżka talking to the people around. Firstly, the confession before a priest (Jakub Papuga) which ends with a failure because their relationship turned into a game played by the people with exact goals and attitudes. A meeting with Mendel, the Jew who expected Sapiażka to admit his guilt. However, the fact that his guilt is so obvious limits the chance to initiate a close contact. Sapieżka defends himself mentioning his nationalistic upbringing in the pre-war times. He recalls his fights in the Home Army, he also was a victim of Auschwitz camp. But the absolute of life, which he deprived Sara of by raping her, is unlimited. There is no escape. His struggle for his soul gets broken against unyielding silence of unattainable, unlimited space, whom he has to surrender together with his faith and saint names, condemning himself, not finding any excuse. The only thing he is granted, as if in a reply, is the appearance of Sara whom he can see for a while during her journey into the infinity. In this dimly lit scenic moment we can find unexpected tenderness and humbleness. Is this moment to be a proper one for purifying and cleansing, just like in mykwa? The logic of Sapieżka’s experiences crosses – since it has to cross sooner or later – with the logic of life. Krzyś (Łukasz Chrzuszcz) takes advantage of this moment of weakness and carelessness. He kills Sapieżka and robs his money which he had been waiting for since ages. Still, the grandson does not know he kills a different the man than Sapieżka used to be when Krzyś plotted to steal the money for the first time – when he was convinced of the fact that the damned grandfather’s past gives him the right to take the money.
The audience can have an impression about linking the logic of affection with the logic of life to such an extent that life can “listen” to Sapieżka’s affection and executes the sentence, Sapieżka passed on himself, with his own grandson’s hands. A short, final scene, a kind of epilogue, deals with Krzyś who does his best to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps – the anti-Semite. I am truly convinced it is a bud for a new drama to be written. Let us hope it will not be a tragedy any more. Memento in the form of Jan Sapieżka’s fate in Mykwa is so powerful and so abundant it suffices for anything else.

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