Research Seminar- Thursday 17th March. Dr Bryce Lease on performance strategies, politics and paradigms in relation to Polish theatre

On Thursday 17th March, 4-6pm, in the Studio Space at Minghella Studios, we are very pleased to be welcoming Dr. Bryce Lease, Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, who will share his research into performance strategies, politics, and paradigms in relation to Polish theatre-makers and Polish/Jewish histories and lives.

Bryce’s recent articles have appeared in CTR, TDR and TRI, and his monograph After ’89: Polish Theatre and the Political will shortly be published by Manchester University Press (spring 2016).

‘Unbearable Excess and Historical Particularity: Staging Suffering and Polish/Jewish Relations’

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.


(A)pollonia, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, Nowy Teatr, Warsaw, 2009