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Poland: Part 15 – Back to Wroclaw, Suzuki, FRAGMENTS, and NEFÉS

June 28th – Early Afternoon

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.

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29-Jun-2009 07:28, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.84, 10.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 64

 

We’re at a different hostel this time.  I like the decor.  I think Em would like it, too:

Our last hostel, back in Wroclaw

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Our last hostel, back in Wroclaw29-Jun-2009 08:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 118

 

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29-Jun-2009 08:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 156

 

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.

2:55PM

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 talk

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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.

Late

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!

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The Pina Bausch dancers!28-Jun-2009 17:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.98, 11.6mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 

After leaving, I grabbed a few slices of pizza and chatted about the show with Ryan, Sonia, Chantelle and Una.  It was generally positive reviews.

I went back to the hostel, shaved, showered, and hit the sack.  Tomorrow would be our last full day in Wroclaw, and in Poland.

Click here to go to Part 16: Last Full Day in Poland, and THE TEMPTATION OF QUIET VERONICA

Click here to go back to Part 14: Guerilla Walk and CALIGULA

Poland – Part 9: The Halfway Point

June 22, Morning

During breakfast, I found out that it was another free day – once more, Wroclaw was our playground to romp around in independently, followed by another version of Hamlet (HAMLET. SILENCE FROM THE BODY by Roberto Bacci) that night.  It was also our last night in Wroclaw – we were going to leave for Krakow early the next morning.

The deal was even sweeter when Tamara handed us a 250z cash-infusion.

So what did I do?  Did I hit the town, and eat at restaurants?  Did I go sightseeing?  Did I go shopping?

Actually, I did laundry.  Yep, I had accumulated quite a collection of dirty laundry at this point, so I stayed back at the hostel, and slammed some dirty clothes into the washing machine.  While waiting for my clothes to get washed, I hung out in the hostel kitchen with Chantelle.

While talking with Chantelle, I learned that a few of the ladies in our group had noticed that men in Poland were a lot more obvious when “checking out” the women around them.  Chantelle told me that a few of them had even felt uncomfortable at times, and that it was almost as if some men wanted them to notice.  I told her that I wondered if it was just a European thing, and she said that she didn’t know.

I also took a time out to play with the Hostel Dog:

Hostel puppy!

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Hostel puppy!22-Jun-2009 12:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

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22-Jun-2009 12:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

2:15PM

With my laundry air-drying on a clothing rack in the hostel, I eventually left to go exploring on my own.

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22-Jun-2009 09:30, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

It was chilly, rainy and grey out.  I also wasn’t sure where everybody was – we seemed to be all scattered about.

I eventually bought some postcards and a calling card – I was going to call Em later on that day.

2:55PM

I ran into Tara, Tom, Alex (or was it Alexi? My writing is a bit sloppy), Sonia, Ryan and Jiv at the milk bar we had originally seen during our tour of Wroclaw.  I had something to eat, and then we all left together.

Eventually, Ryan, Jiv, Alex (Alexi?) and I split off and walked through some of the small artisan shops.  We talked with a shopkeep, who told us about a major flood in Wroclaw that had happened about a decade before.  Apparently, flooding in the area was quite common.

We thanked the shopkeep, and left.

4:15PM

Somehow or another, I had gotten back to the hostel, and started writing postcards.  I also took the opportunity to call my girlfriend Em, and tell her how I was doing.

After the phone call, I felt a little Wroclaw-ed out, and felt I needed some downtime to recouperate.  I went into the common room and watched some BBC News.

Finally, I got up, and went out again for something to eat with Tom, Tara, Ryan, Alex, Una, and Linn.

6:33PM

If it hasn’t become clear already, the bunch of us became expert restaurant-hoppers.  Choosing restaurants, however, could be a bit of a chore.  Often, there were times where we’d travel the entire square several times before deciding on something we could all agree upon.

And for that night, the restaurant was a Greek place called “Ready’s”.  This is what my guidebook says about that restaurant:

Paper napkins and plenty of plasticky bits and bobs greet you in what rates as a very poor man’s Sphinx.  Eating is just a means to an end here, with plates of kebab meat, fries and chicken being the core dishes.  You may enjoy Ready’s, but only after a dozen beers.

Maybe it’s my attraction to no-frills stuff, but I enjoyed this place.  I’d eat there again.

In fact, we were enjoying our meal so much that we lost track of time!  We paid our bill, rushed out, and tried to figure out how to get to the theatre to see Bacci’s HAMLET.

7:45PM

After a failed attempt at walking to the theatre, we decided as a group to try to take a cab.  Eventually, we were able to hail one down, but only four of us were able to take it.  After a quick discussion, Ryan, Alex, Una and Linn hopped in, and the rest of us tried to hail another cab.  Tom, Tara and I were doubtful that we’d make it.

8:00PM

Luckily, we were able to hail a cab.  After flailing some arms, and gesturing wildly at our maps, we were able to communicate to the driver where exactly we wanted to go.  I think he knew we were in a hurry, because he floored it.

He pulled up right to the theatre entrance.  We paid, hopped out, and rushed into the theatre.

HAMLET. SILENCE FROM THE BODY Directed by Roberto Bacci

When we got inside the theatre, the show was just about to begin.  There was no seating left, so I sat in the aisle.

The lights came down, and the show started.

This version of Hamlet was spoken in rapid-fire Italian.  There were English and Polish subtitles projected on a surface above the stage.  Half-way through the production though, the English subtitles stopped.  They just stopped coming.

I think this was a good thing though, since it allowed me to focus on what I was seeing and hearing on stage, as opposed to flicking my eyes up to the screen every few seconds to get my place in the story.

So what did I see?  This version of Hamlet had the cast (with the exception of Hamlet himself) dressed in fencing armor – masks and all.  I thought the masks helped them pull off some nice sleight of hand, since it allowed them to “dissappear” characters into the anonymous chorus, and have them re-emerge elsewhere.  Actual fencing was performed on stage as well, which was exciting to see.

The stage was panelled in wood, giving it a very red, and earthy tone.  The major set piece was what appeared to be a large, rusty frame or scaffolding, somewhat like a jungle-gym.  This apparatus was climbed upon, walked through, and even had “drawbridge” doors on either side of it.  It was a neat contraption, though I was worried for the actors safety when they were climbing it at some points, since it seemed to have a very high centre of gravity.  I also wish they had used it more – it seemed to have a lot of potential.

The acting was decent.  I had a conversation with Tom about the show afterwards, and we seemed to agree that this was a pretty “meat and potatoes” Hamlet.  It did the job of telling the story, and it told it pretty well, but nothing blew our socks off.  Tom said that Bacci’s Hamlet was “like a Soul Pepper production, if they had hired a kind-of experimental director.  Pretty strong, but nothing special.”

We talked about Hamlet for a bit, and then walked back to the Hostel.  I hung around in the common area for a bit, and then I went to sleep early – we had to wake up around 5:30AM to get ready for our bus trip to Krakow the next day.

Click here to go to Part 10:  Journey to Krakow, Wawel Hill, and The Dragon

Click here to go back to Part 8:  A Boat Ride, Eating, Videos, AJAX, and More Eating