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sobota, 20 sierpnia 2005
Dialogus de Passione albo ÂŻałosna tragedyja o Męce Jezusa

(Dialogue of the Passion or the Pitiable Tragedy about Jesus’ Suffering)
Teatr Narodowy, Warszawa, 1998/99
recenzował Andrzej Dąbrówka

Text compiled by Kazimierz Dejmek from different old Polish mystery plays, interludes, dialogues, meditative texts of the XVI-XVIIth and poems of the XVth c.

Played by the actors of the Teatr Narodowy (National Theatre of Warsaw) - 18 roles, 9 guest players, and two choirs: The Warszawski Zespół Chorałowy dir. by Tadeusz Olszewski, and a Children’s Choir dir. by Romuald Miazga.  

Directed by Kazimierz Dejmek.

Première: Nov. 28, 1998 at the main stage of the Teatr Narodowy, Warsaw.

Played afterwards 18 times, for the total audience of ca 5400 people.

Designer: Jan Polewka

Music arranged by Stefan Sutkowski and Jacek Urbaniak (compiled from different sources, e.g. Hosanna filio David, Gloria laus, Amicus meus, Judas mercator, Popule meus, Crux fidelis, Vexilla Regis, and Polish secular and religious songs, I let out their titles).

Sculptures of Christ: Stefan Borzęcki, Zbigniew Kowalewski, Jerzy Nowakowski.

See a long review by Tadeusz Kornaś here (in Polish)  

            The text covers the main events concerning the Passion in this sequence (I’m translating the titles of parts as they appear in the program): (I) 1. The Council of the priests; 2. Devils’ council; 3. The Entry into Jerusalem; 4. The Betrayal of Judas; 5. Conversation of Mary, Judas and John; 6. Jesus before Annas, Caiaphas and Herodes; 7. Judas gives the money back to the bishops and hangs himself;  (II) 8. Jesus before Pilate; 9. The Scourging and Crowning with Thorns; 10. Jesus condemned to death; 11. Via dolorosa; 12. The Crucifixion; 13. Planctus of Mary at the Cross; 14. Epilogue.

            The director’s aim was not reconstructing a medieval performance („to please the specialists”), but „exposing universal contents” of the subject matter.

The wooden figures of Christ are in more than one sense the centre of the performance. First, they represent the main player. But more important is the fact, that this choice of the „player” for the role of Christ was the reason for the choice and arrangement of texts for the performance. Not one word of Christ is to be heard, but his presence is not avoided. The silence of Christ, a well-known feature of the Passion, is made complete. His total passivity is suggesting a division within this world, the people are allowed to do anything at their own responsibility. At the same time it is creating the aura of the unwanted, but persistent and pervading  presence of the sacred. It stresses further the fact that only one part of Christ’s nature is being murdered, or, that complete murdering of this human God by men is impossible. It allows the soldiers in the scenes of scourging a truly „medieval” intensity of  their beatings and humiliations. But the wooden figures’ perseverance expresses the continuity and difference of Christ’s symbolic presence on earth after the Ascension, for some part also through images in devotional artefacts.

            Being a production of the National Theatre (and this does mean something in Europe) - directed by a great master (if not the grand old man) among the Polish theatre directors, it was played by some of the best Polish actors (e.g. Teresa Budzisz-Krzyżanowska as Mary or Olgierd Łukaszewicz as John the Evangelist). The general character of the staging was that of a „common” tragedy, at times in slow motion. Not all roles offer the needed depth, however (e.g. Judas, and there is some overacting, or minor roles like that of the Captain - there is some naivety), but the main ones have, at the most important places at least.

            This production has already had a history of its own before it was presented in Autumn 1998. It was due to be performed in 1969(!). It has been cancelled by the communist censorship on the day of the announced première, october  25th. In the program booklet there is a reproduction of 1 typewritten working sheet from that time, with some handwritten notes - it is an inventory of more than 20 changes required by the authorities after the succesive try-outs. You can almost see the blue pencil at work! Some of them were minor, like the expurgation of Pilate’s mentioning of „republic”, or deletion of the word towarzysze, comrades, which is an old Polish word, used especially among soldiers, but under communism it was sanctified with that very special meaning you all know and it has become taboo in all suspect contexts. The removal of the figure of Simon of Cyrene (Mt 27:32), most probably occurred because of the likeness between the Polish form of his name, Cyrenejczyk with that of the prime minister Cyrankiewicz. There were negotiations: no sticks for beating, but rods; too much scourging; more devils please, etc.

            Not enough for some of you? There were still more essential changes. After the second rehearsal attended by the officer of the censorship, the performance has got sort of folkloristic quotation marks: it should from now on become a theatre within a theatre; a plebeian group is playing a Passion play: all figures are recognizable as peasants who have some theatrical costumes on; red colour is eliminated from the costumes (comrades!). And again: no chains, but ropes, more light, no dimness, via dolorosa too longish, and so on.

            There is much to be said about the reasons of that excessive care of the communist censorship. It seems difficult to understand if we remember that Dejmek’s production of the Historia o chwalebnym Zmartwychwstaniu Pańskim (History of the Glorious Resurrection; mentioned in Lynette Muir’s The Biblical drama of Europe; see its another production described in this issue), first staged in 1961, has been played with great succes and without political obstacles in different towns in Poland, Hungary and Germany, with many guest performances all over Europe; only in Warsaw’s National Theater it has been played 257 times.

            The reason for the cautiousness of the authorities in 1969 was the previous production of Dejmek’s, of the Dziady by Adam Mickiewicz, concerning the loss of Poland’s sovereignty in the 18th century, and Russia’s occupation of a substantial part of its territory until 1918. After more than 20 years of communist rule which was in fact a new Russian (soviet) occupation, the performance of Dziady has got some patriottic response and was forbidden, this has caused student riots in March 1968 which introduced important political developments, that were still going on in 1969.

            The later productions of the Dialogus de Passione outside of Poland after the forbidden one (e.g. at the Piccolo Teatro of Milan), and the present one, that could not be forbidden any more - are another story.

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