J. OSTERWA THEATRETHE DEVIL AND THE BAR OF CHOCOLATE
Paweł Piotr ReszkaDIRECTED BY
A consecrated virgin, a lion breeder from Wojciechów in the Lublin region, a five-time infanticide, less able-bodied residents of the nursing home demanding the acknowledgement of their sexual needs, teenagers haunted by the devil, a homosexual desperately trying to cure himself of his sexual identity – protagonists of narrative accounts by Paweł Piotr Reszka constitute a flamboyant array of individuals, creating a panorama of Poland that is simultaneously magical, god-fearing and internally contradictory. Here, a young woman marries Jesus Christ, a handsome long-haired man, a priest treats gays by means of intimate bear hugs, and in the case of the terrifying, extreme case of Jola K., the woman deals with her unwanted pregnancy by killing one by one all her five children. Somewhere in the background the past shimmers faintly: the history of the Jewish presence in the Lublin region, the collective grave in Rechta (Strzyżewice) that the present landowner built a garage driveway on, the fear of ostracism that may affect the children and grandchildren of those who helped the Jews in the wartime. Each, even the shortest and the most trifling text by Reszka features a social issue, but it is always the human being that takes centre stage. This is, to my mind, the crux of the theatrical attractiveness of his writings.
The characters portrayed by Paweł Piotr Reszka represent the so-called social periphery. Whether they are doing time, dedicating their virginity to god, as almost three hundred consecrated virgins in Poland, or donating blood, so as to provide their eight children with chocolate and earn thirty-eight zlotys of travel expenses reimbursement, as does Stanisław Jaworski of Holeszów, they are an exception to a rule, a peculiar phenomenon – they are the minority. But for Reszka’s texts, we would not know about their existence. We would not hear their voices. At present, when more and more frequently the values of liberal democracy are being questioned, when more often than ever we hear that “this is what the majority want” and we less and less remember that the strength of democracy lies in the protection of the rights of the minority, Reszka’s writerly gesture seems particularly valuable and important.
Paweł Piotr Reszka shows us the “small” people – small not because of their intrinsic qualities, but rather belittled, disenfranchised, marginalised, ignored, snubbed, often reviled. He looks at them with a specific mixture of wry humour and reserve, but most predominantly with empathy. We try to translate the author’s gesture onto the theatre stage. In the intimate and democratic space, blurring the boundary between the audience, the stage, and the set design, we attempt to carry out the most basic, the simplest and the most demanding task: to instill empathy in audience members and to – if only fleetingly – put them in the characters’ shoes. How much empathy are we capable of feeling? Can we together – audience and cast – create an open, empathetic space for the duration of the performance?
In The Devil and the Bar of Chocolate, Paweł P. Reszka is no mere sensationalist. He does not focus on the margins and the pathologised. Primarily, he attempts to understand. Kuba Kowalski, who transferred Reszka’s literary non-fiction onto the stage, took the author’s rationale seriously. He approached the task with deliberation and reason. The outcome? The Osterwa Theatre has produced a classy and tasteful show that ought to be staged not only in Lublin.
Kacper Sulowski, „Gazeta Wyborcza”
Paweł Piotr Reszka
ADAPTATION AND DRAMATURGY
SET DESIGN AND COSTUMES
31 March 2017