I awoke all stuffed up, miserable, and sore this morning. Really didn’t sleep well. I know I’ve been complaining a lot lately about this cold, but I’m actually pretty lucky that it hit me at the end of the trip, as opposed to the beginning.
After breakfast, we got on the bus and drove for 2.5 hours back to Wroclaw. Tried to nap on the bus, but no luck.
It’s good to be back in Wroclaw, and around relatively familiar surroundings – it’s probably the closest thing I could call to home out here. Compared to Poznan, Wroclaw fits me like a pair of comfy running shoes.
After unloading our stuff at the hostel, we went to go have dinner. Guess what we ate? Pirogies! I have to admit, I was getting a little sick of eating pirogies day in and day out, but I figured it’d be a long time before I had authentic Polish pirogies again, so I ate up.
I’m at a theatre, watching a talk session with Tadashi Suzuki, the famed Japanese theatre director/philosopher, and founder of the Suzuki Method of Actor Training (not to be confused with the training technique for music). So, what’s the Suzuki Method of Actor Training? Hard for me to say – I’ve never taken it. But my movement instructor learned Suzuki during a sabbatical, and my girlfriend Em ended up learning it in her class. From what I’d heard, it’s a lot of leg-work, feet-work, stomping, etc. Here’s a description of a Suzuki course to give you an idea:
Suzuki is a powerful physical training technique drawing from ballet, martial arts, Kabuki and other disciplines. Focusing on breath, the center and the lower body, with stomping, slow movement and explosive gestures, Suzuki brings attention to the voice and its connection to the body.
Anyhow, I’m watching him during this talk-back session, and it’s a pretty interesting interview process.
You see, I don’t believe Suzuki speaks English or Polish. The interviewer speaks both Japanese and Polish, but only Japanese to Suzuki. Suzuki responds in Japanese, which goes through his personal translator, who speaks it in Polish. A fourth guy on the edge then translates the Polish into English to give us poor Canadian sods an idea of what’s going on.
I must admit, I welcome the opportunity to zone out a bit while I wait for the English.
Here’s a shot of the linguistic circus:
At the Suzuki talk28-Jun-2009 09:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.37 sec, ISO 100
The talk seems to be centered around modern technology, and how Suzuki believes it is damaging our collecting ability to remember our history. Interesting, but I think I’ve heard that one before.
After the talk, I got up, realized I was exhausted, and headed back to the hostel for a short nap.
I woke up at 5:52PM with a start. The hostel was empty. I’m groggy, and I have the faint suspicion that something is wrong. Unable to fathom what it is, I put on my clothes and stretch.
And that’s when I notice my ticket for the next show: it’s supposed to start at 6PM.
I have a lightning fast consultation with the hostel computer for directions to the theatre, and then a quick chat with the hostel desk girl for advice on shortcuts, and then I hit the street. I sprint to the theatre at top speed.
And somehow, magically, I make it. I was lucky – the theatre was pretty close to our hostel. I enter the building and eventually find my comrades who had had no idea that I’d been sleeping when they’d left.
I didn’t even know what show I was seeing, until I looked at my ticket again…
FRAGMENTS By Samuel Beckett, Directed By Peter Brook
Wow! Samuel Beckett and Peter Brook! Now those are two names I definitely recognize. I had studied Brook in both highschool and University, and Beckett in the latter.
I even saw Peter Brook that night – I walked past him in the lobby. He was in the middle of a conversation with someone else, so I didn’t interrupt (I don’t even know what I would have said if I had…”you do great work”…?).
He’s shorter than I thought he’d be.
Anyhow, the show was absolutely awesome. I loved it, back to front.
Fragments is a series of shorts originally written by Samuel Beckett. The set was very sparse, containing only what was necessary. The costumes were simple. The acting was fantastic.
What was it? Well, pretty black comedy is what I saw. Gallows humour.
A one legged beggar and a blind beggar try to strike up a mutually beneficial relationship.
A lady in a rocking chair speaks hypnotic circles while waiting (and yearning) for death to take her.
Two men wake up in burlap sacks. One goes through his day, “worldweary and bemused”, with every possible obstacle in life causing him to groan and sigh. The other man goes through his day (and the same obstacles) with unbelievable energy and optimism. Both end up in the same place at the end. Classic Beckett, and wonderful clowning by the two actors.
Those were the three shorts that stood out for me, anyhow. I really enjoyed them.
After the show, we all rushed out to the opera theatre…we had another show to see.
NEFÉS by Pina Bausch
Wow! Another name I recognize! From what I know about her (which, admittedly isn’t much) Bausch’s name is synonymous with incredible and original choreography in modern dance.
And that’s what we saw. Incredible dance. Incredibly choreographed, and incredibly executed.
I won’t lie – I’m a sucker for contemporary dance. I lapped this show right up.
This, despite a partially obstructed view (the old opera theatre was gold and gorgeously ornate, but had some unfortunately placed pillars).
I can’t even begin to describe the dancing. This clip is the best I can do:
Anyhow, thumbs up. Here’s a shot of the curtain call:
The Pina Bausch dancers!28-Jun-2009 17:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.98, 11.6mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
My journal for this day starts with an entry at 10AM, recapping what happened the night before. The next entry is at 1:55PM. I’d have to conclude from this that it was a slow morning – probably just eating breakfast, checking email, and chatting with the others.
Apparently, tickets for the Guerilla Walk (an event that both Tamara and Peter praised endlessly last night) are sold out. We’ve been put on the standby list though, so we’ll see if we can get lucky there.
I’m feeling pretty tired and incoherent. Again, the bunks in this hostel aren’t very comfortable. Not sure what I want to do today…
I’m in the Poznan square with Linn, Yev and Alexi. We’re feeding pigeons.
My throat is still really sore, but Tara and Tom gave me some Robatussin, Alexi gave me some Polish cold medication, and Yev gave me some vitamin C. And I’m constantly munching on Halls.
Hopefully it’s not a lethal combination.
I’m with Yev and Alexi, and we just watched a film called “Attempt of a Portrait of Jerzy Grotowski”. Pretty interesting. Next is another (rare) film on Grotowski, which demonstrates some of his rehearsal techniques.
I found a YouTube clip of the video:
The actor demonstrating it is ripped, and moves his body really violently…he’s snapping his neck around all over the place (see 4:00 onward). It looks uncomfortable, but I guess he knows what he’s doing.
We’re going to watch a bit of it, and then leave to try to do the Guerilla Walk thing.
After watching a bit of the second Grotowski film, Yev, Alexi and I made a break for it and headed to the meeting place for the Guerilla Walk.
I wasn’t entirely sure what this Guerilla Walk thing was…Peter and Tamara had been (intentionally?) vague about it – saying that we just had to do it.
When we got there, we found out that some folks who had reserved tickets couldn’t make it – so we, the standbys, got the tickets. Thank you drama gods!
We got into a lineup, and noticed that a bunch of other folks from the UCDP had also made it in. We got closer and closer to the end of the line, and when we got there, a person asked for our passports. Apparently, we would be getting a headphone set for listening to our tour guides (like at Auschwitz), and they wanted our passports as deposits.
Hm. As a cautious traveler, this set off warning bells. I had been instructed from the get-go to not let my passport get out of sight, and that Canadian passports are particularly valuable on the black market. But, I watched my comrades fork over their Canadian passports for their headsets, and I eventually did the same.
So, I got my wireless headphones, and waited in the designated area for the “walk” to begin.
This might have been my favourite part about our trip to Poland. I’ll do my best to describe it.
The tour group was about…I’d guess, 50 people. All of us had wireless headphones on.
There were two tour guides. One was decked out with an impressive portable DJ-ing rig and broadcasting system (large antenna out of his backpack). The other guide had headphones similar to ours, but with a microphone to speak to us. There was also some support guys walking around with spare batteries for our headphones in case we started to run low. There was a camera guy filming us.
The banter between the two tour guides was absolutely hilarious. It was something like morning-radio-show banter, mixed with highly-skilled freestyle rap.
Our guides then took us on adventures in the city. We walked through a town hall (?…seemed like some sort of administrative building…) that Hitler had once visited, and listened to Chaplin imitating him from The Great Dictator. We were then led out of the “bowels” of the building on to the street.
And already, we were putty in their hands. The guides were very skilled at making us all feel like a mob that was cooler than anyone else around us who wasn’t wearing headphones. A strange feeling of invincibility seemed to sweep through us as we marched along, invading various parts of the city.
We would periodically stop to watch our tour guides complete some kind of “mission”. For example, they would do some “Guerilla planting”, and plant a flower at a city park. Other times, they’d climb up a portable ladder to second-story apartments and say hello to the people inside. If they found a lady, they’d ask for a lock of her hair.
They would chat with interesting people they found on the street, and give them a microphone so we could hear what they were saying.
And the entire time, there was a cool hip-hop back-beat, and periodic freestyle rapping from the DJ. The entire tour group would dance sporadically. I’m sure we looked silly or strange to people without headphones walking around us…but we just didn’t care.
Eventually, our guides led us inside of a building. We walked up a flight of steps, and through some dark passageways. There was a lot of us, and it was getting cramped. Our destination was a darkroom, and it was pitch black. All of us, all of the tour group, was in pitch black. And then suddenly, beer was being passed around, our tour-guide lit up his neon suit, and we were having an impromptu “darkroom disco”. Most of the music was Michael Jackson. And it was awesome. We danced, blindly. We held hands with silent strangers that we couldn’t see. Whooping and hollering in the dark. Very cool experience.
We eventually left the darkroom disco. The beer had really loosened up the tour group, and we were all getting pretty silly and dancy. We waited for a streetcar, and danced until it finally showed up.
There were a few other missions after the darkroom disco…we put up some QR Codes around the city, saying things like “Something from nothing”, or “I love you”.
We gathered at a public, indoor swimming pool, stood around it, and sang a song about amoebas.
But why just tell you about it, when I can show you? They filmed the whole thing. I pop up a few times in the video, along with my comrades. This will give you a good idea of what we were doing.
After the tour, and after we’d calmed down a bit (the whole experience had really pumped us up), Jiv and I had an interesting conversation about the meaning of the piece.
While it could simply be viewed as a fun tour, Jiv noted certain patterns in its design and content. Patterns like the amoeba song, the Hitler speech, the blind darkroom dance. He said that it was an interesting study in mob mentality – and that it really only takes a charismatic, likable leader (our tour guides), and direct 1-way communication (the headsets) to create a mob. We had become a benign, dancing, adventuring mob. But violent, dangerous mobs could be created in the same way. I think Jiv is right.
After the Guerilla Walk, we grabbed some food (we were starving), and then went to go see Caligula.
Caligula was being performed outdoors. It was becoming a chilly night – I hoped the actors would be warm enough.
As an interesting aside: outside of the theatre space, there was a monument to the Polish men and women who had worked on cracking the Enigma cipher:
Monument for Enigma cypher codebreakers27-Jun-2009 16:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
I studied that for a bit, and then we went inside to see the show.
CALIGULA by Tomaž Pandur
Here’s the description of the show from the Malta! Festival website (though it looks like they just pumped the Polish version through Google Translate):
Caligula is a spectacle based on the Albert Camus’ drama but that spectacle suggests a different look at a history of Rome third emperor. It’s the story about the clash great ideas with the narrow-mindedness of the world and about the price that has to be paid by those who strive for perfection. This is the story about little people distroying, with the stubborness, everything that made them aware of their triviality – Caligula was brutally murdered and – what’s worst – he was slandered for ages. Pandula teared the shroud of the lies weaved by the Swetonius, duplicated later by historians and writers, and tells his own version of life and tragical Caligula’s end – the great visioner.
With his theatrical manifesto Caligula proclaims: ” Exciting illusion of the truth, the most beautiful spectacle in the world, the perfect place for the acts of God in the Earth, wonderful and attraction uncompared with anything, the thunder and lightning, destiny in the triumphal march… it’s the art of drama… people make mistakes because they do not believe enought in theatre.” This way the Caligula life became a living theatre, the journey without limits to the galaxy of everything what is invisible and unaware. The crowned poet with the divine clairvoyance of a hermit.
Hm. Not the clearest description I’ve ever heard. I’ll do my best to tell you what I saw.
Remember how I hoped that the actors would be warm?
Well, guess what? The actors performed the entire time wearing next to nothing. In water. It wasn’t just a wet stage…it was…like, half a foot of water that the actors were standing and performing in. I was freezing just watching them.
So, this was another take on the story of Caligula, the third Roman emperor.
And it was visually stunning. I already told you about the flooded outdoor stage, but the rest of the set was this series of gray towers that looked like stone. The towers would silently rearrange themselves in order to change the scenery. The precision and expertise in the transitions was absolutely fantastic. A marvel. It was magic.
Once again, I think a lot of the story was lost in translation for me. Plus, it was outdoors, and the actors weren’t mic’d (mic’ing would have been a nightmare in all of that water). So hearing was a bit difficult.
There were certain points in the show that really caught my attention, visually. The reflection of the water was used liberally to create some neat rippling effects on the set pieces. Some additional “magic” was done with the set pieces – a stone tower would glide in front of an actor, and after it had passed, two more actors had joined the first. Neat things like that.
So, visually, this show was stunning. I also give full kudos to the actors for working in the freezing cold, naked, in water. I can’t say much for the story or plot. Still, an interesting show.
Here are some super blurry photos of the cast bowing:
Fuzzy shot of the CALIGULA cast27-Jun-2009 18:52, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 156
After the show, we all went back to the hostel. As usual, reactions to Caligula were mixed. Eventually, I landed on my lumpy mattress to try sleeping again. We’d be heading back to Wroclaw the next morning.
Just had breakfast – cocoa puffs again, and the strange Poland milk. The bunks last night weren’t too pleasant, and I half-jokingly recall hearing distant gunfire through our windows last night.
Probably just my imagination.
Tamara is handing out tickets for the shows: La Menzogna and Caligula. She also tells us that it’s going to be hot and humid for the next few days. Oh well, at least there isn’t a garbage strike to stink it up.
Just got my official program for the Malta! Festival. Wow! Lots of big names in this festival – and not just theatre, but bands too!
Nine Inch Nails! Jane’s Addiction! Snow Patrol! Radiohead! Unfortunately, we’re not saying long enough to see Radiohead or Jane’s, and we’ve already missed NIN – but Snow Patrol is on tonight. I’ll bet that the tickets for them will have been sold out far in advance, but it still might be worth checking out.
Just finished eating a nice, simple, spaghetti and tortellini meal at a pasta bar.
We found a spaghetti bar….mmmmmm…26-Jun-2009 07:09, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64
My throat is getting worse. Bleh. I think I’m going to go back to the hostel and take a nap.
Just woke up from my nap. Skipped this Guerilla Walk thing that we had the option of doing today. Not sure what that is, but Tamara and Peter are raving about it. Anyhow, glad I took the nap. I’m feeling a bit better.
Just had some, you guessed it, pirogies! Pretty good – very filling!
Our next stop is our first show in Poznan, called La Menzogna. The theatre is a 20 minute hike from the hostel.
The cigarette smoke from the crowd outside the theatre isn’t helping my throat much. Cough cough cough.
LA MENZOGNA by PIPPO DELBONO
The theatre space was cavernous – it reminded me of either a large gymnasium, or a small aircraft hanger. There were bleachers, and cushions on the ground in front of the bleachers to face the stage.
Initially, I sat on the cushions but eventually decided to migrate to the bleachers – it was going to be a long show, and I’d need the back support.
As usual, I’m a bit at a loss to describe this show.
First off, I went in (and came out) not really knowing what it was talking about or trying to say.
And that’s not only because it wasn’t in English.
Months later, with the help of the Internet, I am able to tell you what they were trying to do:
In December 2007, on Thyssen Krupp’s steel factory in Turin, a fire takes the lives of seven factory workers. From this tragic work accident, Pippo Delbono draws a theatrical, political and spiritual journey, in the line of his work, which combines theatre, dance, music and poetry, producing a unique stage language, which has brought him recognition from all over Europe. Delbono’s theatre is contaminated by life, raising questions he wants to share with the spectators, and a place of encounter and reflection on the nature of human being. La Menzogna aims to question human life’s dignity of and its place among our society.
As usual, reactions from my comrades were mixed. I found the whole thing rather silly. I believe the main character was supposed to be some sort of frightening ringmaster. He did “edgy” things like coming into the audience, waving a lead pipe around, and snapping pictures of us…invading our space. I found him rather boring and impotent.
And then there was the nudity. At this point in the trip, I’d seen a lot of nudity on stage – both male, and female.
And you know what? I get it. I see what you did there. You got all vulnerable for me. Thanks.
The lead character got all naked, and it was almost as if he was saying to me, “Look! Look how vulnerable I just became for you! Look at what I’m giving you! BASK IN IT!”.
And…again, I just thought it was silly. And it had so much promise! The set was absolutely gorgeous. Ah well. A disappointment. I’d certainly choose it over Cleansed or Medea, though.
After the show, we walked back towards the hostel. We stopped by a restaurant for a late dinner – it was Peter’s last night with us (he would be taking a train to Warsaw at 6AM the next morning and flying back to Toronto to prepare the Playhouse for the Fringe festival), so we all hung out with him to say our farewells.
The whole time, my throat was getting worse and worse. The restaurant was engulfed in cigarette smoke.
I eventually left, and went back to the hostel to sleep.
It seems pretty in vogue lately to complain about schools, and the current state of our learning institutions.
I’ve certainly done my fair share of complaining.
Chances are, at some point, you have too.
Anyhow, my sister is a teacher, and I’ve become friends with a bunch of teachers, and I think they know it’s not perfect too. I’m also pretty sure any system large enough will eventually draw complaints for one thing or another. Nothing is perfect.
But for all my griping, complaining, and whining throughout school, I’m still glad I did it. I still think it made me a better person than I would have been without it.
This comic by Stuart McMillen reminded me of that, and I thought I’d share it.
It seems like we just got to Krakow, and now we’re leaving again. We’re taking a 7 hour bus ride today to Poznan for the 2009 Malta Festival.
Originally, the plan was to wake up around 8:30AM this morning and go on a walking tour of Krakow. But when 8:30AM rolled around, and people started getting up, my throat was absolutely killing me. I was getting sick. It wasn’t a surprise – Ryan and Jiv had been sick the night before, and all of the second-hand cigarette smoke I was inhaling probably wasn’t helping either.
So I thought it’d be best if I sacrificed seeing more of Krakow for my health. I went back to bed.
I woke up just after 11AM. It turns out that Una and Linn opted out too, and now we’re sitting outside of the hostel at the first floor restaurant. We’re about to get breakfast, and then it’s 7 hours to Poznan.
Still sitting outside the restaurant. We’re really taking it easy this morning…I had a “Polish Breakfast” (bread, ham, cheese, scrambled eggs), orange juice, and a lemon sorbet for my throat. It looks like either Linn or Una got pirogies:
We’re on our way to Poznan. We left about 40 minutes ago. I’m trying to read Guns, Germs and Steel. Even by itself, it’s a pretty hard book to read. Now try doing it on a bumpy bus with people talking all over the place. Not exactly ideal. I found myself rereading paragraphs over and over again without really absorbing anything. Eventually I gave up and just looked at the countryside.
More Polish countryside…25-Jun-2009 10:10, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64
You can barely see them in the second shot, but there are wind turbines in the background. Wind turbines seem to be pretty common out here. It’d probably be more common in Southern Ontario if we didn’t have the Hydro system to rely on.
Still en route to Poznan. Apparently another hour and a half to go. We’ve driven through a pretty brutal thunder/rain storm. Rain flooded an entire section of the street, but our bus driver, Pan (Mr.) Stephan, just plowed right on through it.
Now the sun is setting, and it’s overcast, but at least the rain has stopped. We’re all getting pretty stir-crazy in the bus. We’ve all been reading, sleeping, playing word games, making jokes, telling stories… this long trip has reminded us of how brutal our flight home will be (20+ hours!!). We also joked about the garbage strike (which was still on at that point).
We’ve been eating chips, popcorn, and other junkfood from gas stations and rest stops along the way. I feel pretty trashy. Everybody is restless.
We’ve arrived at the hostel. Feeling like trash. We couldn’t find the place at first, and then found out we had to walk down a sketchy alleyway to get there.
To top it off, between us and the door was a veritable lake of foul smelling liquid. We grit our teeth, and Tamara visibly shuddered as we walked through our personal oasis of filth to the hostel door.
This hostel really doesn’t feel secure at all. And the shower doesn’t drain. And the bathroom door doesn’t close properly. The beds aren’t comfy. A whole host of complaints. Our long journey probably didn’t help our mood.
And I was hungry. So after dumping my stuff at the hostel, I walked back through the putrid lake, and found an all-night grocery. I got some fruit, some yogurt, and some soup. I showered (most unpleasant, with the soapy water not draining), and then I went to sleep on my lumpy mattress on the creaky bunkbed in the sketchy hostel.