Hamlet stripped by Polish theatre

Jean-Louis Perrier, LE MONDE

One of the most moving performances of the Avignon summer comes from Poland. Hamlet directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski. The director has not turned 40 yet and he represents the new generation of Rozmaitości Theatre - the cradle of Polish dramatical restoration. Similarly to Grzegorz Jarzyna (who introduced Yvonne, the Princess of Burgund and Prince Myshkin last year), he passed through Cracow school. He was also Lupa's assistant (Peter Brook's as well), whose traces can be found in alternations of light and darkness, simultaneity of action, taste in paroxysms. The influence is reinforced by the presence of actors originating from Stary Theatre, where the master works.
Bilaterally-audienced construction. The slightly hoisted square platform separated from the rows is placed in the centre. Ready for ‘naked' performance, where accessories are rarely used. A metallic alley resounding with steps, falls and embraces is in the centre. Below, on one of the sides, a church wall stands resembling a crimson line surrounded, as on a ring, by a palisade of sincretic, divine and immense geometry's tints. The castle's embankments on the other side - a gallery of metallic, shimmering mirrors in front of which chairs of the court are situated. Everything happens with granducal pageantry while the guards who had seen the phantom are whispering quietly. An incredible splendour. A surpliced priest consecrates the new king. Plump queen Gertrude (Stanisława Celińska) tears out the crown to put it on Claudius (Marek Kalita) head.

Well given strokes

Krzysztof Warlikowski cuts down the unknown ways in the state of Danes, but he does not grub everything at once. Hasn't he confessed „Hamlet is me along with my imperfections and inquires"? His ego loves sharp and florid colours: uncle Claudius seems to be Hamlet's (Jacek Poniedziałek) brother and Ophelia (Magdalena Cielecka), having almost maternal feelings towards him, succumbs to his provocative hugs. As for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, these two chicks do not keep their hands to themselves either. Warlikowski plays with the characters, distorting and torturing them.
By means of well given strokes of Polish sado-catholicism, he is trying to draw unexpected declarations out of them. He avoids making them up, as if during a sincere confession.
A sad prince wanders wearing a childish mask cut out of the festival's programme. He imitates monkey's gestures and runs around the stage's cage tirelessly. He would probably transform into a chameleon if only Polonius did not hold his hand. Everything is possible, including a declamation group wearing T-shirts and shorts, just like on Place d'Horloge, entering the stage.
Family album photos - the king and the queen are drinking champagne holding rustling chocolate bars in their hands, like unbridled holidaymakers. Simpler and more impressive images when depressed Claudius swings on the chair at the stage's edge. Perturbing ones when Hamlet and Ophelia are sitting face to face hidden in the twilight and she takes her wedding dress, marking her pregnancy, off.

The hidden meaning is sometimes revealed, blurred by the intensity of performance. For instance when completely naked Hamlet shows his Oedipus complex embracing and kissing his mother over the corpse of Polonius, or his homosexuality while dancing quadrille with Horatio. The abundance of images marks the birth of a new dramatical baroque, alternating classical dialogues reinforced by faultless performance and visual attractiveness. Warlikowski intensifies the meaning and grasps what unexpectedly emerges from the text by sharpening the contours. There is no need to worry about surfeit, magnitude or contradictions. Isn't he the one that says „Hamlet is the whole world"?