22 September 2010 Nasza Klasa (Our Class) by Tadeusz Słobodzianek in Krakow on 6 November
The long-awaited theatre event of the Conrad Festival will be the play Nasza Klasa (Our Class) based on the book by Tadeusz Słobodzianek – closing the segment on the problems of boundaries. This play, by the Art Dialogue Foundation in co-production with the International Festival “Theatre Confrontations” in Lublin will be directed by Slovak Ondrej Spišák. It can be seen on Saturday 6 November at 8:00 p.m. on the boards at Krakow’s Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts Theatre.
The heroes of Our Class are schoolchildren in a small town similar to Jedwabne or Radziłów. The play begins with a scene in which the children, Poles and Jews, tell what they want to be when they grow up. We then follow their fates – amidst weddings, births, and deaths – through the pre-war years, both periods of occupation, the People’s Republic of Poland, and up to the present day. Inspired by the crimes of Jedwabne, Our Class presents the question of the source of anti-Semitism and the right to moral judgement of the participants in those events. It also shows that the over the space of years, the bill for injury was written by the hands of Poles and Jews alike.
Słobodzianek’s drama had its premiere at the National Theatre in London in September of 2009. It was translated by Ryan Craig, and directed by Bijan Sheibani. This was the first play by a Polish playwright to be produced on the stage of the English National Theatre.
Ondrej Spišák, who was famous in Poland in the 1990s for a series of productions in Polish puppet theatres, and for his hit stage adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, in his introduction for the play writes, “I would like for Our Class to help build understanding of events like those in Jedwabne. I am under the impression that in Poland, anyone who talks about or brings up the crimes committed against Jews is treated as an enemy. But this is a political discussion, radicalised by various factors. Our Class does not attempt to teach; it is a kind of storytelling that is intended to raise questions. It does not attempt to judge anyone, but rather to show the complexity of the events described. Our Class, alluding to the events in Eastern Poland, is at the same time a universal story, understood everywhere where deep ethnic conflicts appear, and private life is forced to supplant grand policies. It is important to us that this is a story about people that one might meet on the street, and with whom the viewer will identify. This story is to be a warning, but it also must show how incredibly difficult the situations of the main characters are. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the events described in Our Class never occur again in our civilisation.”
The cast includes Magdalena Czerwińska, Izabela Dąbrowska, Mariusz Drężek, Monika Fronczek, Anna Gryszkówna, Dorota Landowska, Leszek Lichota, Damian Łukawski, Robert T. Majewski, Paweł Pabisiak, Przemysław Sadowski, Marcin Sztabiński and Karol Wróblewski. The scenography is by František Liptak, the costumes by Jan Kozikowski, and the choreography was created by Anna Iberszer.
“We must never cease to confront the trauma of Polish-Jewish relations. I believe that it can be shown in another light, not without ambiguity, tragically and provoking not only contemplation, but also a kind of catharsis, which will leave no one indifferent” says Tadeusz Słobodzianek of the play.
In the afterword to the drama, written by festival guest Leonard Neuger, we read: “History has done its work. Filmmakers, journalists, prosecutors, judges, politicians, and moralists – all did what they do. They showed the anti-Semitic crimes, which were committed by Poles. But the bodies are still not buried. In Our Class Słobodzianek brings them out to meet (…). The word, once freed, never again returns to the zone of silence. But when repeated in a circle, forced to admit the truth and measure out punishment, search for the guilty, seek justice and condemnation – it begins itself to deafen and solidify into stereotypes. Historians, prosecutors, journalists, politicians and so forth have said their piece. The truth has been acknowledged, guilt attributed, words spoken, and diametrically opposite opinions made permanent. What is left, however is the ever-growing remainder, beyond the horizon of guilt and punishment, beyond the horizon of that which can be grasped. With Słobodzianek the name of Jedwabne does not come out, but then, Our Class is not based solely on the material from Jedwabne, and it does not only apply to Jedwabne. And the corpses never take their eyes off of us. And they speak. They do not accuse, and do not regret their fate. They tell of terrible things, but – for the corpses – they are not terrible, for them it is too late to horrify. What is more they cannot leave the stage (or us), because they are bound together eternally. They are bound by history that does not want to release them, a fate that bound them together in life, against life and after death.”