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Odyssey. A Story for Hollywood


based on The Odyssey by Homer and two novels by Hanna Krall – Chasing the King of Hearts and Story for Hollywood

directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski 

dramaturgy: Piotr Gruszczyński | collaboration: Anna Lewandowska | scenario: Krzysztof Warlikowski, Piotr Gruszczyński | co-author: Adam Radecki | collaboration: Szczepan Orłowski, Jacek Poniedziałek

directed by: Krzysztof Warlikowski | set designer: Małgorzata Szczęśniak | costumes: Małgorzata Szczęśniak  | music: Paweł Mykietyn | lighting designer: Felice Ross | artistic collaboration: Claude Bardouil | video and animations: Kamil Polak | footage for the “Interrogation” scene: Paweł Edelman

Mariusz Bonaszewski, Stanisław Brudny, Agata Buzek, Andrzej Chyra, Magdalena Cielecka, Ewa Dałkowska, Bartosz Gelner, Małgorzata Hajewska-Krzysztofik, Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieślak, Wojciech Kalarus, Marek Kalita, Hiroaki Murakami, Maja Ostaszewska, Jaśmina Polak, Piotr Polak, Jacek Poniedziałek | Featuring Maja Komorowska I Krystyny Zachwatowicz-Wajda

premiere: 4.06.2021


What I Saw

For me the highlight of the festival was seeing the work of two of my all-time favorite directors: Krzystof Warlikowski and Christoph Marthaler.  I fell in love with Warlikowski’s work at the 2013 Dialog Festival where I saw his productions of Cleansed and Warsaw Cabaret.  Since then I’ve seen his productions of The Tempest, Krum, We are leaving, and Medea.  Warlikowski’s Odyssey is a four-and-a-half-hour opus performed on an enormous stage in a vast television studio.  In addition to Homer and Krall, the piece draws from Shakespeare’s Richard III, The Dybbuk, novels by Coetzee, Bernhard, and Malaparte, the films A Serious Man, Shoah, and Heideggers Hut among many others.  Like his earlier Warsaw Cabaret, it is a kind of epic dramaturgical collage in this case getting at the aftermath of the Holocaust.   

The set by Malgorzata Szczesniak was a vast, industrial space with what seems like a long series of benches from a train station inside a huge cage on wheels.  The play began with a muscular, naked man pushing this huge cage from one side of the stage to the other.  Early on, Warlikowski establishes the connection between Penelope’s search for Odysseus with the story of Izolda Regensberg (the actual person and character in Krall’s novel) and her search for her husband after their time in Auschwitz by showing a Jewish family sitting at the dinner table circa 1947 and the husband standing up and instead of recounting stories of the holocaust, tells his stories of the monsters and goddesses he encountered on the way from Troy back to Ithaca.  It is Odysseus reimagined as a holocaust survivor.  Other highlights are a scene where Izolda meets with Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Evans to try to get her story made into a movie (this is based on Izolda’s actual desire to have her story told on the big screen with Elizabeth Taylor playing her) and a post-war scene between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger having a picnic in the hills talking about their former teacher / student relationship and their (perhaps former) attraction to each other.

Act Two starts with longtime company member Jacek Poniedziawek in the near-darkness reciting a powerful passage from Curzio Malaparte.  Then the large cage becomes a market for blue jeans with Izolda selling jeans to passing customers.  After that we see a long scene from the film Shoah in a barber shop with a barber recounting his experiences of the holocaust followed by a live actor coming out to play the director of Shoah, Claude Lanzmann explaining his reasoning for bringing the (then retired) barber to Israel to stage his former life of a barber while telling his story.  The play ends with the scene from The Dybbuk when a dybbuk comes to visit a couple for dinner.  The wife knows it is a dybbuk because she knows that their friend (impersonated by the dybbuk) has been dead for three years.  I believe this same scene was also in Warsaw Cabaret but I might be misremembering.

Who knows, I may be misremembering a lot!  It was a very fulfilling and very intellectually dense four-and-a-half hours.  Watching Warlikowski’s collage-work is exciting for a number of reasons: the smooth but wild shifts in tone: from comic to tragic, from camp to documentary seriousness; the vast differences between the various materials and the many associations between them, the stunning design; and of course the always fearless acting work from his company.  It really gives him an enormous canvas and the freedom to let his mind travel great distances: the directorial equivalent of Picasso’s Guernica.  I always love seeing what Warlikowski is thinking about and his work always shares these thoughts and obsessions generously.

-Rob Melrose

About the Artist

KRZYSZTOF WARLIKOWSKI is one of the revivers of the language of the European theatre. For many years, his productions have been shaping more than just the face of the new theatre. With over ten Shakespearean premieres, the director created a new canon of producing plays by the Stratford author, based on Jan Kott’s interpretations. His interpretation of Cleansed revolutionized thinking about the boundaries of theatre. First productions by Warlikowski in theatres in Poland and abroad were, among others, Hamlet produced in Tel Aviv (1997) and Warsaw (1999), The Taming of the Shrew in Warsaw (1998), The Tempest in Stuttgart (2000) and Warsaw (2003). The director focuses also on classical drama – including Electra by Sophocles (1997) and Bacchae by Euripides (2001) – and on contemporary drama, e.g. West Pier by Bernard-Marie Koltès (1998), Cleansed by Sarah Kane (2001), Krum by Hanoch Levin (2005), Angels in America by Tony Kushner (2007). In 2006, Madame de Sade by Yukio Mishima premiered in Toneelgroep in Amsterdam. In 1999, he began his years-long cooperation with Rozmaitości Theatre (currently TR) in Warsaw, where he produced seven performances. During that time, he directed also abroad – in Zagreb, Bonn, Nice, Amsterdam, Hanover and Paris. In 2000, he debuted as an opera director, preparing in the Grand Theatre-National Opera the premiere of the opera by Roxanna Panufnik The Music Programme. Since then, he created over a dozen opera productions in various countries. Since the beginning of 2008, Warlikowski has been the artistic director of Teatr Nowy, which he established in Warsaw with a group of his permanent collaborators. In May 2009, he directed the first premiere of that theatre – (A)pollonia – based on texts of, among others, Aeschylus, John Maxwell Coetzee, Euripides, Hanna Krall and Jonathan Littell. His following productions in Teatr Nowy are: A Streetcar on the basis of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams as a co-production of Nowy Theatre and Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris, starring Isabelle Huppert and Andrzej Chyra (2010), The End (2010), based on the texts by Koltès, Kafka and Coetzee, African Tales by Shakespeare (2011), Kabaret warszawski (2013) inspired by I’m a Camera by John van Druten and the movie Shortbus by John Cameron Mitchell, The French (2015) inspired by Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time, We are living based on Levin’s play Suitcase Packers (2018) and Odyssey. A Story for Hollywood (2021). In 2011, the movie Gli Italiani by Łukasz Barczyk, starring Warlikowski, premiered. In 2021, the director received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.

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