IPHIGENIA at A...
based on EURYPIDES with Mariusz Gołaj as Agamemnon
The premiere performances of Iphigenia at A... were in October 2007 in LaMaMa E.T.C. Annex Theatre (New York).The music based on Ancient Greek text is being composed by Zygmunt Konieczny, the most outstanding living theatre and film composer in Poland. The performance is performed in Polish, English and Ancient Greek. Scenes are built on movement, gesture and singing making the text understandable in each latitude.
The subject of the performance is a sacrifice. The necessity for human sacrifice in order to defend the highest values - sometimes recognized only by specific group (national or religious) - is the most current problem in the modern world. Human lives are being sacrificed on unbelievably huge scale in the name of imponderables such as religion or patriotism.
The main characters are internally torn . Euripides gave them a huge dose of emotions. They induce them to defend the basic human values such as love, family, issue. From the other hand they are submitted to the horrible pressure of political circumstances, which feed dangerously their ambitions to the extremes and make them to be submissive in front of society’s claims, the claims of the mob. Even such proud and eager for power and success man as Agamemnon is in the state of terribly tragic dilemma being torn between his personal feelings and his ambitions. The same with Achilles.
The tragedy of feelings and ambitions make the characters extremely theatrically distinct and in the same time very contemporary. When we push aside an antiquarian historisme we start to deal with humans who are like taken out from the image of today’s’ life.
The final act of offering the life of Iphigenia is the result of instigation, indoctrination, human manipulation as well as generally prevailing climate of violence and aggression. Such climate prevails in the tragedy written by Euripides. With such climate we deal in today’s life in almost each latitude. Suffice it to open the newspaper or switch on the TV. IPHIGENIA IN A... could be the tragedy of every family in which the young girl commits suicide after being hounded by her background.
The subject of the performance is a sacrifice.
The necessity for human sacrifice in order to defend the highest values - sometimes recognized only by specific group (national or religious) - is the most current problem in the modern world. Human lives are being sacrificed on unbelievably huge scale in the name of imponderables such as religion or patriotism.
The main characters are internally torn . Euripides gave them a huge dose of emotions. They induce them to defend the basic human values such as love, family, issue.
From the other hand they are submitted to the horrible pressure of political circumstances, which feed dangerously their ambitions to the extremes and make them to be submissive in front of society’s claims, the claims of the mob.(…)
The tragedy of feelings and ambitions make the characters extremely theatrically distinct and in the same time very contemporary.
When we push aside an antiquarian historicism we start to deal with humans who are like taken out from the image of today’s’ life.(…)
The stage pictures stay with you: The chorus members, drums between their legs, pounding in unison and chanting. Iphigenia curled fatally on a chair, a sacrificial lamb in white. Agamemnon, arms raised, sharpening knives with barely contained violence. Iphigenia standing motionless, a long red scarf dragged across her throat, the sacrifice complete. (…) In this production Iphigenia's mother, Klytamnestra, separated from the chorus by a circle of light, asks, "Does no one speak against this?" It's a powerful moment, a revealing combination of performance, stagecraft and text.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, by Rachel Saltz, New York, USA, 12.10.07
The tragedy's conflicts are placed on a knife's blade. Extraordinary energy of the actors orders us to observe with tension their struggles over life and death. (…) Clytemnestra's desperate question if anybody at last is going to face against human sacrifice in the name of God or humanity and private or political interests cuts the action at culminating moment.
TYGODNIK POWSZECHNY, by Anna R. Burzyńska, Cracow, Poland, 24.05.07
Polish director Wlodimierz Staniewski seeks to remove the "mask of time" from Greek tragedy through a process of what he calls theatrical "archaeology", to bring the lifeblood of ancient Greece into what he describes as “touching distance” from contemporary audiences. This past week, the internationally renowned director led a five-day master class in English for a select group of students, as part of a conference called "Languages of Stage and Performance in Contemporary Polish Theater". The event was cosponsored by the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Theater Arts and the Polish Institute, in the framework of the Year of Polish Culture in Israel. (…)
By developing a creative form with references to music and the body, Staniewski establishes meaning in relationship and dialogue. The reverberations of this dialogue, between the ancient and contemporary, the actor and his/her body, one actor and another working in partnership, create a powerful and unique stage presence. This dialogue was particularly evident in the partnership between Golaj and Holcberger, as they enacted a scene between Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, from Euripides’ “Iphigenia at Aulis” in the workshop’s final presentation.
HAARETZ.COM, ISRAELI NEWS, by Ayelet Dekel, TelAviv, Israel, 6.02.2009
Staniewski's performances are made for a long time (…).
New performance gets out from the old one, the subjects and motifs are starting to bud and the old performance gets infected with some unexpected values of the new project. It reminds me of scratching from the Attic vase one painting in order to uncover the earlier patterns.(…)
The subject of the performance is crystallized in the final scene. Staniewski reads Iphigenia at Aulis as a study of fanaticism. Awfully sounding words of the Achaean commander's daughter willingly going to die are proving right thing that Greeks rule barbarian (trans. by Ch. R. Walker). Ill and disabled child played beautifully by Karolina Cicha matures to her sacrifice, she marries death but this gesture does not come from what's good. Behind all this stands pride and hatred and vindictive satisfaction is very soon going to multiple her suffering by suffering of others. Because evil breads evil and insanity – insanity.
PRZEKRÓJ, Łukasz Drewniak, Warsaw, Poland, 31.05.07
(…) Rather than tell a story, or treat us to another interpretation of Euripides’s pay, IPHIGENIA AT AULIS spoke to us, in vivid, audio-visual terms, about the contrasts of life and the simultaneity of opposing phenomena. Played on boxes, which the actors kept rearranging in different formations, dispersing them, or piling them up on top of each other, it seemed to take us back to the origins of theatre in magic and to transform the stage into a Theatrum Mundi displaying the play of primeval passions, cosmic forces and erotic drives. Eschewing realism in a drastic way, and putting us face to face with the magical powers of theatre with devastating directness, it created through its dynamism and ecstatic scenes a new, overwhelmingly intense reality, full of dissonance and tensions, songs and dances, shouts, whistles, moving processions, clowning, high leaps, sensual desire, incantations and magic. The impact was positively euphoric. (…)
I left Alexandria with one consolation – GARDZIENICE’s iPHIGENIA IN AULIS.
AL-AHRAM WEEKLY, by Nehad Selaiha, ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, 12 – 18.02.2009
THE GARDZIENICE’s IPHIGENIA IN AULIS is a ritual, a sacred rite, precise in its choreography and bodied language. Each gesture here is a carefully sculpted example of the research that Staniewski and his company have conducted into folk and ancient ritual and music. Dressed in loose, delicate robes (…) the performers dance an oratorio of the play, evoking what the program notes call a "(restoration of) tragedy from the spirit of music." Mariusz Golaj as Agamemnon, Joanna Holcgreber as Clytemnestra and especially Karolina Cicha as Iphigenia embody Staniewski's style of ageless, rehearsed bodied actions, simultaneously precise and violent. (…)
That said, The "Gardzienice’s" IPHIGENIA IN AULIS, presented here in its world premiere (…), is a unique look at the reclamation of the tragedy from ancient Greek history, seeking with care and love and research to restore the tragic spirit to the contemporary world. There are those who don't think tragedy is possible (or even desirable) in the 21st century, especially the deep, irregular rhythm of tragedy that was first explored by the ancient Greeks – the rhythm, though, is that of the human heartbeat. It is through the ignorance of this tragedy at the heart of human experience that wars, for Helen or for oil, continue to be waged. Iphigenia at Aulis is not anti-war, then, but an exploration and speaking, singing embodiment of whatever part of the human spirit – a spirit composed of desire, of dominance and submission, of masochism, of sacrifice, of both love and death – is expressed through it.
SUPERFLUITIES REDUX, by George Hunka, New York, USA, 07.11.2007
Zygmunt Konieczny's original music, which is sung by the ensemble in several captivating numbers, is a beautiful display of folk and choral traditions, and includes a wide range of vocal styles and sounds that evoke a tribal and primitive soundscape. Iphigenia at Aulis is also ripe with stunning stage pictures centered on a simple and effective set of moveable blocks and platforms, and the staging overall conjures up a feeling of a lonely tribe perched on a cliff, exposed and vulnerable to the gods and to nature around them. (…)
But what makes this company even more exciting is the way text, movement, and music are used and combined. There are many multi-disciplinary companies that can bring these elements together in interesting ways, but with Gardzienice it's as though they were working on a more primal level: as though the disciplines were a seamless unity from the very beginning. Here the advantages of the company's extensive development process is in full display, with the cast seeming like a single theatrical organism that shares a richly textured and deeply layered theatrical language of movement and sound.(…)
Here, instead, one feels almost like an anthropologist traveling back in time to witness our own cultural origins, with the only link between them and us being the primitive reptilian brain of Western society that still exists in us somewhere underneath our more civilized and evolved cultural trappings. Iphigenia in Aulis is, after all, a tale of ritualized human sacrifice in the shadow of gods and natural forces that humanity cannot reason with or fully understand, and in many ways this production feels fittingly more like it could be the ancient pre-historic source material for Euripides's play, rather than an adaptation of his work written 2,500 years after his death.
(...) The new performance IPHIGENIA IN AULIS according to Eurypides showed at The National Old Theatre in Krakow (Teatr Stary) is yet another successful attempt of stripping the antiquity of museum characteristics. The glass of the showcase behind which the present time put the antiquity has been broken.
(...) The world of lost, mentally and physically crippled characters fascinates us, but at the same time fills us with fear. We start to realize that it is not only the story taken from a theatre antique shop and told with beautiful music by Zygmunt Konieczny but a story about the present time. It is how Staniewski resurrects antiquty.
(...) Gardzienice’s performances represent theatre of the highest artistic risk. Staniewski looks in his actors and the text for traces of Dionysiac rituals from which the ancient drama was born. He shifts the footbridge between myth, symbol and banal, vulgar everyday life.
NEWSWEEK POLSKA, by Joanna Ruszczyk, Warsaw, Poland, 27.05.07
Direction, text adaptation, dramaturgy of music: Włodzimierz Staniewski
Music: Zygmunt Konieczny
Adaptacion of ancient Greek songs: Maciej Rychły
Translation: Jerzy Łanowski
Language: Polish, English, Ancient Greek
Costumes: Monika Onoszko
Lighting: Paweł Kieszko
Movement sequence of Pyrricha: Julia Bui-Ngoc
Premiere Cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Karolina Cicha, Anna Dąbrowska, Agnieszka Mendel, Charlie Cattral, Katarzyna Stefanowicz, Anna-Helena McLean
In subsequent casts performed, among others: Benedict Hitchins, Maciej Gorczyński, Justyna Jary, Estella Levko, Maniucha Bikont, Emilia Raiter, Marie Paskova, Juliane Ehle, Jacek Timingeriu, Emma Callander, Barbara Wesołowska, Michał Brańka, Maciej Hanusek, Emilia Śniegoska, Katarzyna Kapela, Zofia Barańska, Ivor Houlker, James Brennan, Artem Manuilov, Martin Quintela, Lia Ikkos Serrano, Mateusz Malecki, Roman Bardun, Olena Yeremenko, Jan Niemczyk, Lyubomyr Ishchuk
Guest performers: Krzysztof Globisz/Andrzej Seweryn
Current cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Magdalena Pamuła, Anna Dąbrowska, Dorota Kołodziej, Tetiana Oreshko, Kacper Lech, Jan Żórawski, Aleksandra Zawłocka, Martyna Konewka, Anna Nguyen, Maciej Czerniak
Musicians and choir: Karolina Rudaś/Gabriela Żmigrodzka, Rafał Granat, Filip Pysz, Kamil Gosek, Szymon Kałużny
Co-production: Teatr Stary (The National Old Theatre) in Krakow, La Mama Etc. Theatre in New York
The first presentations: 2007, the National Old Theatre name Modrzejewska in Krakow
Premiere: La MaMa Theatre in New York.