13th Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival

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  • Saturday, December 5, 2020 - Sunday, December 13, 2020

Tender Theatre

It’s time to forget about plush chairs, the magic of the fourth wall and catching up in the foyer after each performance. This time theatre comes to the screens in the comfort of our own homes. We’re delighted that Divine Comedy is persevering!

The 13th Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival (5-13 December) is unlike any before. Kraków’s greatest celebration of theatre comes to the PLAY KRAKÓW platform, with all performances and events streamed free! Culture has never been so open and accessible!

Tender narrator

The motto of this year’s festival, inspired by the Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk, is “Tender Narrator”. “As Olga Tokarczuk famously said, ‘The role of an artist relies on giving a foretaste of something that could exist, and thus causing it to become imaginable’. The hundreds of performances we have presented to date and the thousands discussions that followed are all the result of our common need for a tender experience of the world,” says Bartosz Szydłowski, director of the Divine Comedy festival.

This year there will be no traditional Inferno and Paradiso competitions, nor the Purgatorio section. The pandemic format of the festival focuses on expressing gratitude to all theatre artists – “tender narrators” – who continue to describe the world around us, whatever the current events.

Looking in

This year’s programme features 23 performances including eight premieres. The festival opens with a world premiere of Michał Zadara’s Flights, based on Olga Tokarczuk’s novel. Co-produced by Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and the Łaźnia Nowa Theatre in Kraków, the play will be streamed live from the Warsaw stage.

Some of the spectacles are linked by self-reference. Katarzyna Kalwat’s Returning to Reims reaches for Didier Eribon’s novel and the biography of Jacek Poniedziałek, star of the performance. Autobiography, Just in Case by Michał Buszewicz tells the story of three generations of men from the director’s family whose fates are determined by his own choices. Dominika Knapik’s outstanding performance Agon explores her life as an artist and a mother. In How to Save the World on a Small Stage, Paweł Łysak takes a look at what we have inherited from our ancestors and what we will leave behind to our children. Weronika Szczawińska’s intimate production Simply explains how personal tragedies and their memory mark the rest of our lives.

“The filter of tenderness first appeared when we were all stuck in the first lockdown. It felt as though working through isolation would help deepen our faith in things which are muted, tender. Unfortunately, exclusion seems to have taken the upper hand,” says Szydłowski. The festival features productions by artists who take a tender look at socially awkward, maladjusted individuals. They include Jakub Skrzywanek’s Kaspar Hauser about the mysterious 19th-century youth and Cezary Tomaszewski’s Gracjan: The Musical based on Poland’s most famous youtuber.

Past and future

Jędrzej Piaskowski and Hubert Sulima return to the Positivist dream of building a community with their On the Niemen, taking a tender look at the classic school text and linking it with the current situation.

Jolanta Janiczak and Wiktor Rubin tell the story of Barbara Zdunk, considered to be the last woman burned at the stake for witchcraft in Europe (No-one Will Believe Us Anyway), streamed from the Aleksander Fredro Theatre in Gniezno. Another spectacle shown at the theatre is Marcin Liber’s A Short Conversation with Death, with the director reaching for mediaeval Polish texts to create a modern version of a danse macabre… Four students from Kraków’s National Academy of Theatre Arts (Tomasz Fryzeł, Piotr Froń, Kinga Bobkowska and Adam Borysowicz) spin their own vision of the end with Safe Space premiered by the Łaźnia Nowa Theatre.

And we will see more premieres from Cracovian theatres. Narodowy Stary Theatre presents Magda Szpecht’s Fiasco inspired by the world and literature of Stanisław Lem, while the Ludowy Theatre shows Konrad Dworakowski’s Rulers with a narrative based on video games and Cezary Tomaszewski’s singspiel The Supposed Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders. Jerzy Zoń from KTO Theatre has prepared a visual spectacle The Blind, streamed live from Tauron Arena Kraków.

Here comes youth!

“In recent weeks, we have been hearing from young people as they take to Poland’s streets. We want to listen to what they have to say; we want them to tell us what they want the world to look like,” Szydłowski says. The organisers of the Divine Comedy festival are planning workshops for representatives of youth clubs at theatres from all over Poland. The project is symbolically launched by the Little Divine Comedy competition with a jury of young people choosing the winning performance from five productions: Butterfly (dir. Marcin Liber), Aliens (dir. Jakub Krofta), Rutka (dir. Karolina Maciejaszek), Peter Pan and Captain Hook (dir. Magdalena Miklasz) and King Matt the First (dir. Piotr Sieklucki). Performances presented outside the competition are Łukasz Zaleski’s Open Borders, Konrad Dworakowski’s Rulers and Mateusz Pakuła’s Lem vs. P.K. Dick.

***

The Theatre Hejnał stream presents online meetings with actors and directors, every day at noon. The new festival formula, maintained for the next twelve months on PLAY KRAKÓW, includes Divine Comedy TV reporting the latest news from Polish theatre and hosting discussions with artists and critics. 

“I hope all these dreams of a better world, as transmitted through theatre, come true one day. My faith and determination comes from Poland’s theatre artists, friends of the festival from all over the globe and from our steadfast Cracovian audiences,” adds Szydłowski. Here’s to a triumph of Divine Comedy, of tenderness and of a better tomorrow!

(Justyna Skalska, “Karnet” magazine)

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