Sunday 30 May 2021
Occurring not long after the lifting of Poland's first lockdown, last Summer's Retroperspektywy Festival, organised by Teatr CHOREA at their Łódź HQ of Fabryka Sztuki's Art_Inkubator, was a particular joy. The Festival offered an exhilarating blast of vibrant, crazy theatrical energy - as well as an exemplary model of how to organise and conduct such an event in what we then naively believed could be the cusp of post-pandemic times.
Subsequent waves of the virus, and ensuing lockdowns, have pressed the pause button on live performance and much else since. But the recent reopening of Polish theatres saw a rash of promising premieres this past weekend (with many more to come), from a new adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock at Warsaw's Teatr Narodowy to a new CHOREA performance, presented at Art_Inkubator as part of the nationwide Dotknij Teatru (Touch the Theatre) initiative.
Directed and choreographed by Wiktor Moraczewski and Janusz Adam Biedrzycki (the duo responsible for The Hive: Secret Social Life, a show as whimsically delightful as it was sharply political), Powinniśmy być…Impresja na kilka czasowników (We Should Be...Impression on a Few Verbs), is a one hour two-hander that combines text, movement and dance in the idiosyncratic and inimitable CHOREA manner.
Described as "a manifesto of the presence of two young dancers - built from their combined stories, and specific journal pages," the show seems a deeply personal project for its two performers, Anastazja Bakhtyukova and Michał Rudkowski, and may be read as a portrait of a relationship or as an entirely internal dialogue with the divided self. Either way, issues of identity, and tensions between isolation and connection, emerge powerfully throughout the performance.
As its title suggests, language is also a concern of Powinniśmy być…, and the show approaches the topic in a way that initially reminded me of Artur Urbański's Śliskie słowa, especially when Bakhtyukova and Rudkowski, arriving and disrobing at opposite sides of the stage, launch into a shifting set of self-definitions via an ever-accelerating volley of adjectives and dynamic movements.
The piece is structured in a series of sequences introduced by "actioning" titles such as "I Love" and "I Fight." Yet, as important as the spoken word undoubtedly is here (excellent script and dramaturgy are by Katarzyna Mańko), the show is at its most eloquent in its attention to the interaction of these two bodies in the space. Moraczewski and Biedrzycki's staging is superb in this regard, creating haunting moments of separation and symbiosis that are executed by the performers with consummate skill and maximum expressiveness.
Whether retreating to their separate sides of the stage or intimately entwined at its centre, Bakhtyukova and Rudkowski prove perfect partners. The most amazing sequence, perhaps, is the one entitled "I Dream," which finds the performers positioned at the back wall of the stage and undertaking a series of incredible manoeuvres over and around each other to reach the other side. Think Pina Bausch meets Stephen Hoggett's unforgettable floating choreographic effects for The Light Princess.
The sparsely employed props - a rope, a jacket, mirrors - incorporated into Kinga Kubiak's costume and set design all have a precise emotional weight, enhanced by Paweł Odorowicz's spare music compositions, and especially by Tomasz Krukowski's extraordinary lighting, which bathes the stage in a rich range of hues, as the mood shifts from the playful to the combative to the tender. At once an intellectual and a sensual pleasure, this beautiful, exciting, intense and intimate show is capable of stirring very personal thoughts and feelings: it's a mirror turned - at one point quite literally - to the audience's experience.
POWINNIŚMY BYĆ... IMPRESJA NA KILKA CZASOWNIKÓW will be performed again at Fabryka Sztuki's Art_Inkubator stage on 5 June. Further information here.
Production photos: HaWa
Reviews of Polish theatre:The Nether (Jaracz Theatre), Fever (Pomysłowe Mebelki z Gąbki), Angels in America, Slippery Words (Teatr Studyjny)