The local theatre in the ruins


Made in Poland
Without doubt “theatre beyond the theatre” has become a common phenomenon at present Polish theatre. Artists are abandoning theatre buildings in search of new theatrical spaces, uncovering these spaces’ genius loci in creating site-specific theatre. Directors and stage designers are leaving town and city centres or their cultural quarters, and instead situating themselves in suburbs and peripheries where they seek an area’s particular mysterious aura which might inspire the artists’ creative work or fascinate audiences during performances. The sites are found far from the modern elegance of city centres or the comfortable plush seats of renovated theatres.

The Lower Silesian artists – on whose work I focus here – take their performances into peripheral and often more dangerous districts, for example Zakaczawie, Piekary in Legnica or Nadodrze, Huby in Wrocław. They attempt to bring audiences away from “the city” into “no go” areas in order that not only a particular found space (for example, a disused brewery, an old cinema, the basements of a former hospital) but also a whole district comes to play a new role by breaking down audiences’ engrained stereotypes. Local inhabitants join such incoming audiences, since the subject of the performances are local stories. What thus emerges, to use Jacek Głomb’s term, is both “a theatre in the ruins” and at the same time a local and community theatre. Indeed, the most typical tendency is for a “local theatre” to develop, where the space and the particular themes, as well as a specific, local audience, become important. A certain sociological phenomenon is created by this form of theatre, namely the desire to define a regional identity. The Lower Silesian performances concentrate particularly on rediscovering the traces of the region’s multicultural past, something which was effectively hidden during the decades after World War II. In selecting such sites, the theatre artists, and together with them audiences, observe with a certain nostalgia the palimpsest of inscriptions hidden in the walls.

Magdalena Gołaczyńska holds a doctorate in theatre from Uniwersytet Wrocławski [Wrocław University], where she teaches as a lecturer. In 2002, she published Mozaika współczesności. Teatr alternatywny w Polsce po roku 1989 [Mosaic of Contemporaneity. The Alternative Theatre in Poland Since 1989]; in 2007: Wrocławski teatr niezależny [The Independent Theatre in Wrocław ]. She writes articles on contemporary theatre, focusing on site-specific performances, experimental theatre and local groups. She is a contributor to “Notatnik Teatralny”, “Odra”, “Teatr”, “Slavic and East European Performance”.

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