Witold Gombrowicz City Theatre in GdyniaPolish Nursery Rhymes or Ceremonies
Andrzej BłażewiczDirected by:
Olga Barbara Długońska, Marta Kadłub, Dorota Lulka, Szymon Sędrowski, Maciej Sykała / Grzegorz Wolf, Maciej Wizner, Jakub SasakPremiere:
Polish Nursery Rhymes is a text revolving round well-known family ceremonies. The play’s protagonists meet at social gatherings, such as first communions, wedding receptions, and birthday parties. These spaces of celebrations are infiltrated by memories that trigger topics we would never feel like discussing over a bowl of chicken soup (that still happens to be a culinary staple on such occasions in Poland). The memories and conversations are all propelled by rap rhythms, with a disturbing hip hop flow floating around the stage.
Short-listed for the 2019 Gdynia Drama Award
“The first communion? – WTF?”
Why the fuck are you going there”
Thus begins Andrzej Błażewicz’s Polish Nursery Rhymes or Ceremonies, a performance short-listed for the 2019 Gdynia Drama Award. At the very beginning, a young man – a student of the Drama Directing at the Academy in Kraków – is travelling by train to attend the first communion of his cousin in Warsaw. Subsequently, he is sitting on a church pew as the ceremony unfolds only to be shortly given a car ride to a party in the cousin’s family home afterwards. There, we see him talk with his own parents, his relatives, and with a paternal uncle whom he meets on his way to the bathroom. Later on, the entire family gets in the car and goes on a road trip towards Sanok to celebrate the 90th birthday of an aunt living somewhere there. The protagonist is bent on listening to her war memories, and wants to discuss what she remembers and what happened, and – by recording her narrative – to create his own foundation story.
In his play, Błażewicz creates a quasi-private monologue which consumes all the surrounding voices and as such it can be orchestrated for as many people as one possibly wishes. Its ambition is poetry – but a lesser poetry, simpler, abridged so that it captures the most basic and core emotions and associations. Błażewicz’s text is best read aloud, like The Queen’s Spew by Dorota Masłowska or Ivan Vyrypaev’s Oxygen. Its rhythm is best clapped on one’s knee, its verses sung and hummed. Let the text take us all away. Let it chant itself within us like rap monologues. Almost instantly, when the performance begins, Błażewicz offers us a hint as to which musical tracks he wrote his lyrics to. Taco Hemingway resonates across Polish Nursery Rhymes or Ceremonies. Błażewicz divided his protagonist’s monologue into 10 scenes – into 10 rap songs. Everything we hear can be sung, rapped, or mumbled – all at neck-breaking speeds, all with rapid-fire delivery, no less.
At the 2019 Gdynia Drama Award Gala, young theatre director Ewa Rucińska oversaw the reading of Polish Nursery Rhymes. There is a category of performances that come into being out of the blue. As such, they are created after just two days’ worth of rehearsals, almost from scratch, with barely memorised lines, as a result of a basic stage happenstance, as a response to a flash of intuition behind an open, and yet fully-fledged, form. And this is what that particular reading has since generated: a stage performance. Jacek Sasak took on the mantle of the protagonist of Błażewicz’s play, Rucińska threw in a six-strong choir comprised of the actors of the Gombrowicz Theatre, reduced some of the narrator’s textual input and added a few micro scenes. Her intention was to slow down the rhythm, to introduce pauses for the meeting with a fellow being to be enacted. The Gdynia cast (Olga Barbara Długońska, Marta Kadłub, Dorota Lulka, Szymon Sędrowski, Maciej Sykała, Maciej Wizner) regain subjectivity for the sake of the narrator’s family members; this is indeed unique subjectivity as the relatives talk behind his back, as if they were figures sculpted in relief. They are a living video clip, a tautological gesture of the actions undertaken by the text’s protagonist. They are part a vocal choir and part a dance group or a crowd of fans. They pass on props around.
Jakub Sasak has fashioned beats as rhythms driving each monologue. We can hear them all the time in the background, as the music makes the viewers sway, entering the space between the lead and the cast. And Sasak is indeed vibrant with vocab, surfing the rhythms, swinging in tempo, rapping Błażewicz’s lyrics with his lips glued to the microphone. Written by the Kraków-based director, the play is thus appropriated by the musical element, by tirades, and monologues, while the protagonist’s confession becomes an ingredient of a concert and a showcase of verbal virtuosity: of finding a suitable rhythm and delivering a fitting punchline in a flash. One can also read (or rather listen to) Polish Nursery Rhymes as a hip hop concept album by Taco or FISZ [Polish rappers noted for their insightful lyrics]. Self-thematic and self-analytical stanzas are well grounded in the convention of rap storytelling – in the mode of ceaseless self-introductory addresses to the audience and projecting one’s emotions onto them.
“I keep on spitting out words
Whenever I puke, I inspect the vomit
and see what I hide inside for years
But it turns out I am most certain
I have skeletons in the closet”
Łukasz Drewniak, co-curator of the Theatre Confrontations Festival
Graduated in Acting from the Cours Florent and INALCO in Paris, student of the Drama Directing Department of the National Academy of Theatre Arts in Kraków. Actress of numerous theatre groups in France, since 2013 also a director. Co-founder and Artistic Director of the Compagnie INTER group. She has collaborated with theatres (Ménilmontant, Folie, Aktéon, Manufacture des Abbesses, Funambule Essaion), the Polish Institute in Paris, and the OFF Festival in Avignon. In Poland, she cooperates, among others with the National Opera in Warsaw – as an assistant to Mariusz Treliński. Tartuffe (S. Żeromski Theatre in Kielce) marked her Polish directorial debut.
Winner of the 2013 Jacques Award for the best directorial debut for Bac à sable and the P’tit Molière Award for Le jeu de l’amour et du hasard.