Research Seminar Thursday 17th March- Bryce Lease ‘Poland after ’89: Theatre and the political’.

Thursday 17th March, HUMSS 188 4pm

Bryce Lease (Royal Holloway) ‘Poland after ’89: Theatre and the political’.

‘Evoking Dybuks: Polish/Jewish Relations from Tadeusz Kantor to Krzysztof Warlikowski’

Bryce Lease, RHUL

At the turn of the millennium, Krzysztof Warlikowski claimed the time for European directors to be singularly involved in their own languages and forms had come to an end. Warlikowski cited in particular the theatrical language of Tadeusz Kantor, suspended between Wielopole and Krakow. ‘Now,’ Warlikowski asserted, ‘no matter what we say, we speak with a common language. It is no longer the language of certain theatrical forms of the “East”.’ Wrestling with Warlikowski’s assertion, I will consider the circulation of discourses around the Holocaust and anti-Semitism that position and construct pan-European memories. Juxtaposing Kantor and Warlikowski, I argue that there is always the danger that performance strategies that open up historical questions embedded in nuanced social and political specificities to universalised paradigms will end up everywhere and nowhere at once. Universalization of historical specificity can also lend itself all too easily to justifying defence mechanisms, denial strategies and apologetic uses. As opposed to inhibiting genuine critiques of problematic, nationally inflected or distorted historiographies, Kantor and Warlikowski’s productions have variously attempted to mitigate the tensions between the particular of the Polish with the more general European or even global in relation to Polish/Jewish histories and lives. As a result, they are argumentative and open-ended rather than apodictic. I will analyse the modes in which these theatre makers have both fought against self-assured or biased attempts at closure in Polish historiography on Polish/Jewish relations in their refusal to disguise or banish the unbearable excesses of the past.


Bryce Lease is Senior Lecturer in Drama & Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. Recent articles have appeared in CTR, TDR and TRI, and his monograph After ’89: Polish Theatre and the Political is published by Manchester University Press in early 2016. He is currently Primary Investigator on the AHRC-funded project ‘Sequins, Self & Struggle: Archiving and Performing Sex, Place and Class in Cape Town Pageants’.