Author of the performance: Włodzimierz Staniewski – based on “Iphigenia in Tauris” by Euripides
Translation: Jerzy Łanowski
Director’s Assistant: Joanna Holcgreber
Costumes: Monika Onoszko
Animations: Krzysztof Dziwny, Marta Pajek, Karol Grabiec
Decorations: Ewa Woźniak
Musicians: Tetiana Oreshko – Muca, Gabriela Żmigrodzka, Małgorzata Bardak, Adam Lipiński
Premiere Cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Dorota Kołodziej, Agnieszka Mendel, Anna Maria Dąbrowska, Martin Quintela, Ivor Houlker, Esztella Levko, Artem Manuilov, Olga Mytnik (piano)
Subsequent casts featured, among others: James Brennan, Emilia Raiter, Paulina Dziuba, Damian Borowiec (piano), Mateusz Malecki, Jan Niemczyk, Olena Yeremenko (violin), Lyubomyr Ishchuk (drums), Karolina Rudaś (violin), Filip Pysz (trumpet)
Lights: Paweł Kieszko
Multimedia: Beata Ziółkowska
The first presentations took place in 2010 in the Polski Theatre in Warsaw
Anna Maria Dąbrowska
Tetiana Oreshko – Muca
graduates of the Academy for Theatre Practices “GARDZIENICE”
The cult of Iphigenia among the Tauri – the Crimean people who were as famous as the Scythians or our “own” Sarmatians in ancient times – originated from a disaster. Iphigenia, a charismatic girl, miraculously saved at Aulis from her father’s knife blade, was lost for her people and found by others. She fell from the sky at the antipodes of the then so-called civilized world. Monstrosity!
Or perhaps, as in many similar topoi, she made a long journey? A stranger, who was given hospitality in a distant country – just like the Black Madonna, painted on a piece of a supper table by Luke the Evangelist, who travelled from as far as Jerusalem and finally found her worshippers and a place to rest in our own wild land.
Iphigenia is deified in her life both by Toas, the leader of the Tauri, and his people. Toas gives her the keys to power by making her the priestess of Artemis, the Black Madonna of Tauroplos. It is an extraordinary act of charity: anointing the Stranger and elevating her above his own people. The statue of Artemis, the Holy Virgin, has also fallen from the sky. It’s a black meteor, much similar to the one that was venerated in the wonderful temple in Ephesus. Eidolon, an icon, worshipped by the Tauri as their Holy of Holies, adorned throughout the centuries in votive gold, silver, ivory, ebony, diamond, and perhaps also in our native amber.
The statue must have been an object of desire for all sorts of troublemakers and robbers, such as those two who appear on the stage, Orestes and Pylades. Robbing the shrines was considered “cool” both in the ancient and more recent days (let us just recall the two adventurous nobles from the Działosza and Szreniawa families, who in 1430’s “stripped the Black Madonna of gold and jewels” as recounted by Jan Długosz. Were they barbarians? Infidels? No! Just regular nobility inspired by the ancients to seek out adventures). Orestes and Pylades are pulling wool over our eyes with their stories of Apollo’s trickery (of whom Euripides indeed has a bad opinion), but in reality they’re just Alcibiades-type criminals plotting yet another mischief.
Captivated by those two dandies, Iphigenia gives up all the goodness of her new life, resolves to plot against her benefactors, and, eventually, betrays noble Toas. She arranges a vicious performance to steal the Holy of Holies from the Tauri and, subsequently, flees ignominiously. Her lamentations over the ties of kinship and the lost homeland (which, by the way, acted as if she were an animal for slaughter) sound like a plain attempt to soothe the conscience and justify the unworthy act of treason. Her intrigue, which begs for vengeance, is but an illustration from which emerge two opposing worlds: “the Primitive” and “the Civilized”, or – “the God-fearing” and “the Enlightened ,” “the Commoners” and “the Aristocracy”, “those of the third speed” and “those of the first” … The one who can recognize which ones are the depositaries of truth, will become the bringer of new, joyful news.
Włodzimierz Staniewski’s Director’s Note, 2010
Prof. Edith Hall, a note for the programme of the performance at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, Athens
In Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris, Staniewski’s company, the Centre for Theatre Practices Gardzienice, have found an incomparable medium for their intensely dynamic theatre. They seek to put us back in touch with the primal emotions and instincts seething just beneath the surface of our civilization, and with the ancient rituals which evolved to offer some control over those primal inner forces. This Greek play stages ritual responses to isolation, terror, love and xenophobia through the ancient myth which explained the barbarous, bloody dimension of the cult of Artemis.
A teenaged girl regains consciousness, after a terrifying near-death experience when her own father authorized her execution. She is alone and vulnerable in a bleak, backward land. Its inhabitants worship a virgin goddess strangely similar to the Artemis of hunting, menstruation and childbirth who demanded her own blood back in Greece. But in the Black Sea backwater where she has mysteriously arrived, King Thoas hails her as a holy woman and forces her to perform human sacrifices in honour of the goddess, helped by other captive Greek women also far from their native land.
Euripides’ Tauris (today the southern Crimea), at the time when classical Athenians sailed there, was a half-Hellenised entrepôt where the worship of the Olympian gods had scarcely encroached on the ancient rites of the nomadic Scythians and the primitive, pastoral Taurians.
The story told in the play is an attempt to resolve some of the tensions between different ethnic groups’ views of the gods and ritual practices, through focusing on the core action which united them all – blood sacrifice. When Iphigenia’s brother and brother-in-law are arrested in Tauris, the play stages the inevitable crisis when one community’s obligation to sacrifice to their goddess, according to ancient custom, can’t be reconciled with another community’s equally strong obligation to preserve the lives of their kin–an obligation which the family of Iphigenia and Orestes, murderer of his own mother, have previously failed utterly to fulfill.
The exiles in Tauris remember and re-enact Greek weddings rites, dancing and weaving the clothes for the statues of gods. They perform libations, funeral rites and a great procession in which Iphigenia takes the statue of Artemis and her polluted brother to be purified in the sea.
Euripides finally imposes a ‘happy ending’ through the unexpected intervention of a quite different goddess, Athena. The Greeks escape, and the cult of the Black Sea Artemis migrates to Greece. The play thus exposes the psychological journey at the heart of sacrificial ritual and the hope it offers — albeit illusory — of humanity’s ability to endure trauma and survive. But Staniewski’s remarkable actors leave us in no doubt that the real problem, the dark energy within us all, which originally created the homicidal conflict in Iphigenia’s family, can never be so easily overcome.
Ireneusz Guszpit for Teatr, Warsaw, Poland
Songs in diverse music styles, a variety of props, costumes, languages, movement, choreographies, video art, inspirations from numerous traditions, cultures and religions are integrated by the dynamics and eagerness of the narrative. (…) One can get the sense of a particular compression – a condensation of technique, emotion and performative discipline.
There is one scene in particular, in which Staniewski reaches the culmination in the process of the naturalization of the ancient tale – the solo of the Choir Leader, in which Staniewski – in collaboration with Euripides – paints a poignant self-portrait of the nation.
Culture Now, Athens, Greece
(…) momentous contemporary themes… such as the most topical — and possibly ‘prophetic’— interpretation of the present European crisis.
Maria Kriou for Athinorama, Athens, Greece
The dynamic of the historic Gardzienice theatre… one of the best known Polish theatre companies, extends way beyond the limits of its roots.
Ileianna Dimadi for Athinorama, Athens, Greece
This work by Staniewski – besides its artistic merit – must at all costs be seen for its historical value.
Vana Papadopoulou for Theatro, Athens, Greece
… (in Staniewski’s adaptation of the Iphigenia in Tauris) the original theatrical theme marries ancient Greek with eastern European iconography to uncover momentous contemporary issues.
Daphne Kontodima for Ta Nea, Athens, Greece
A polyphony of tempestuous rhythms and relentless energy [shows us].. the world again divided between the ‘civilized’ and the ‘barbarian’.
Waldemar Sulisz for Dziennik Wschodni, Poland
In the play, the plot of which cannot be described in words since it takes the whole body to contemplate it (…), the director shows how close it is from love to death.
Katarzyna Lemańska for O.pl
The viewer has an impression of looking at the performance as if it were a living organism endowed with consciousness.
Tadeusz Kornaś for Didaskalia, Warsaw, Poland
Surprising start (…) flickering, elusiveness and blurred montage suggests a global catastrophe. Apocalypse. Coming from the outside but also attacking from the inside – as the meteorite falls, the souls break. (…) Tauride Iphigenia is both beautiful and terrible at the same time. She is the one that the people love, but she also leads them to death.