Performances

ELEKTRA
 

 

ELEKTRA

based on Euripides

The Theatrical Essay based on cheironomia/gestures

 

ELEKTRA is the results of the research on forgotten techniques of ancient Greek theatre which in its’ assumption guides the company towards restoring tragedy from the spirit of music.

Fragments of ancient music were re-animated in relation to the irregular rhythms of speech, song and dance that the Company found in the Carpathian Mountains and the Ukraine.The texts, musical notation and images were not read but retrieved through "a forgotten line of life inside ourselves". GARDZIENICE have unfrozen static postures and fragments of music so that "figures are running, spinning, flying… Antiquity is dancing". Again, musicality is the catalyst, shaping the theatre’s language as ancient texts are excavated, danced and sung until they touch, reveal and provoke our contemporary selves through GARDZIENICE’s secret music of the body.

ELEKTRA is based on Euripides’ text. The performance is a result of Wlodzimierz Staniewski's and his colleagues’ work on gestures in ancient Greek tragedy which leads to develop an alphabet of gestures (cheironomia), the technique of work on stage connected with ancient idea of using gestures as one of means of expression describing states of actor. These studies are a part of GARDZIENICE’s antiquity project.

Whilst dance and music is much in evidence, Staniewski has taken a literary text but he describes Elektra as "a tragedy of feelings".

 

Director's note:

According to scholars, Euripides ELEKTRA is a melodrama in which the genre’s characteristics are located between tragedy and satir play with mock-heroic effects.

It has a homogeneous structure. In the play, one can distinguish instances of borrowing from other sources, interludes (some of them added to the play after Euripides death), compilations of narrative elements and incompatibilities within the text which may provoke arguments over whether certain words should not be uttered by this character but by another.

In the Greek theatre, myths were constantly altered and reinterpreted. Experiments were carried out and variants were staged with an audacity that could rarely be found in later epochs. Very little, in mythical stories, is unchangeable and firmly set. The plot, Oliver Taplin noted, was not so significant. What was important was how the poet would change the drama which Taplin recognized was a significant, artistic opportunity, "Limitations are small but the space for artistry is enormous".

Not only did Euripides and the other playwrights deliver the texts but they also composed, choreographed, and directed. They must have made many "attempts" within the creative process which might have been onerous and full of tension, as they sought invariants, made changes, suffered attacks of euphoria and despair, ingenuity and rejection, discovered fickle dynamics as well as crazy ideas.

Euripides to his actor during a rehearsal - One cannot really judge how many wonderful flowers and how many weeds have endured in the classics of drama just because there was not enough time, strength and means for changing "the mad idea".

Rehearsals which lasted many months took place in the theatre but they may also have been held in a gymnasion or the peristyle of a private house with different layouts of staging and different ideas connected to them. An author taught and instructed. Just like Brecht, he used to express his opinions confidently and launch into a tirade about his views which did not have anything in common with the play. He was lively and he intervened, made associations, used allusions, prompted and cited others. His rehearsal must have been a theatrical essay.

Let’s imagine one of them. The Author - the alter ego of the poet and director- intervenes during the rehearsal many times and demonstrates how to play and utter some parts (the Farmer’s, the Chorus, Orestes, Elektra’s ), he butts into the duo and trio, he is the spiritus movens of group scenes. The Author and the actors practice dance, gesture and music thus teaching novice actors their roles. They present musical records and drawings with consolidated poses and samples of using them in action.                                

The practices are discontinued because of a dissolute libation, so common in the artistic world. The libation is disrupted by a tale about a certain murder the cruelty of which shook human conscience. The story is presented not with the use of words arousing fear and pity but with the help of audiovisual techniques (for which,  we apologize to the spectators having a reverential attitude to antiquity). Actors are feasting despite the terror of the remembered crime hanging in the air. The rehearsal is being continued even though its order cannot proceed according to the set scenario. 

A harbinger of a murder (as with a murder itself) always breaks and rearranges the set order both in life and on stage. In the face of the crime, the participants of the event undergo an investigation.

The rehearsal is an investigation and the investigation is a rehearsal. As always in an investigation, some revelations occur, the minutes of which have to be taken down regardless of the feasibility of such a task. The Author becomes an investigator and his characters become suspects. (…)

In the final scene The Author is attired in a robe of masks which represent "dream apparitions" of his characters: all of those he created and who persecute him like demons. Demons rip off the masks of the characters created by The Author. The characters drift up and their creator remains naked and abandoned. The Author, this investigator, the one who has been stripped of his rights by his characters – and who finally take his life.

Włodzimierz Staniewski

PRESS:

Its main protagonist is Euripides himself with his obsessions about the secret of the woman’s nature and the mystery of the way in which a crime spiral gets wound.... and his desperation in creation... As the texts of the ancient world are resurrected, their profound power is revealed, for these themes are universal: The misery of exile, the craving for revenge, the perversity of fate, the fall of authority, the blind will of the mob, the endless struggle for freedom, the taboo of incest, and the desperate call to kill.

Alison Hodge, a director, actor trainer, author of Actor Training (Routledge, 2010), 

lecturer in Royal Holloway College, from the program to Barbican Centre, London, UK

 

Let’s imagine one of them. The Author - the alter ego of the poet and director- intervenes during the rehearsal many times and demonstrates how to play and utter some parts (the Farmer’s, the Chorus, Orestes, Elektra’s ), he butts into the duo and trio, he is the spiritus movens of group scenes. The Author and the actors practice dance, gesture and music thus teaching novice actors their roles. They present musical records and drawings with consolidated poses and samples of using them in action.                                  

The practices are discontinued because of a dissolute libation, so common in the artistic world. The libation is disrupted by a tale about a certain murder the cruelty of which shook human conscience. The story is presented not with the use of words arousing fear and pity but with the help of audiovisual techniques (for which,  we apologize to the spectators having a reverential attitude to antiquity). Actors are feasting despite the terror of the remembered crime hanging in the air. The rehearsal is being continued even though its order cannot proceed according to the set scenario. 

A harbinger of a murder (as with a murder itself) always breaks and rearranges the set order both in life and on stage. In the face of the crime, the participants of the event undergo an investigation. The rehearsal is an investigation and the investigation is a rehearsal. As always in an investigation, some revelations occur, the minutes of which have to be taken down regardless of the feasibility of such a task. The Author becomes an investigator and his characters become suspects.

Włodzimierz Staniewski from The Director’s Note to the performance

               

What impresses is the company's mixture of discipline and energy. Above all, they remind us that Greek tragedy was intended as an all-out, total theatre experience rather than a restrained poetic event. And, while one grasps only a part of the meaning, the result is like watching Euripides by flashes of lighting.

The GUARDIAN, by Michael Billington, London, UK, 2006

 

Staniewski rummages the text, devides it, changes the underactions, joins the past and the future together, interlaces action with musical-visual quotations and demonstrations.

The text is transformed from the original. More, it is spoken in various languages; Polish, English, ancient Greek, Russian; that are not all understandable to the audience, but it does not influence reception nor the visual-emotional impression. (...)

Another success – is creation of the rare technics of gestures, called Cheironomia.

The gestures are not feigned, they are ironically and loosely copied from original ancient art. (...)

What is interesting, the audience is delicately and without any resistance drawn into that acting process. And such a kind of unity is perhaps mostly prized.

KULTURA no 1, by Irena Alpatova, Moscow, Russia

 

This production continues artistic director Wlodzimierz Staniewski's exploration of Ancient Greek music and iconography, and deals with themes such as the misery of exile, the craving of revenge, the taboo of incest, and the endless struggle for freedom. Staniewski transforms performance narrative into physicality, gestures, action, and movement, breaking the texts into their essences, creating a fully visceral world where the story is told through non-linear performance language.                       

NEW YORK THEATRE EXPERIENCE, Inc NY, New York, USA

ELEKTRA by the GARDZIENICE Centre for Theatre Practices may (…) rank as the liveliest lecture on semiotics ever produced. Though based on Euripides' play, Staniewski (with assistance from performer Mariusz Golaj) creates a nonlinear rendition. (…) Yet this lack of plot never results in a performance that's dull or difficult to follow; rather, it's absorbing. If Staniewski declines to represent an Electra complex, he nevertheless provides a most complex Elektra.

THE VILLAGE VOICE, by Alexis Soloski, New York, USA

 

The physicality and gesturing through out are (…) moving stained glass images pulsating with life. (…) Lead actor and co-creator Mariusz Golaj is like an avant-garde, Polish Jack Nicholson, who begins and ends our journey with an utterly compelling presence. His performance is at times heartbreaking, funny, insane and deeply personal, as Euripides, and even when he fades to the background and Electra takes over, we are always with him on his strange, nightmarish journey.

NEW YORK TIMES - in the resp; em. nachogringo, NY, USA

 

This carefully orchestrated experimental technique (...) combines ancient texts and oral histories

NEW YORK TIMES, by Phoebe Hoban, New York, USA 

 

The second half of the evening, based on Euripides' ELEKTRA, is more accessible. The director gives us a short talk, explaining how important gesture and sound were to the Greek dramatists. The company then performs a glossary of gestures - fascinating, like watching ancient Greek vase paintings on the modern stage - and applies this work to a distilled version of the tragedy. The result is astonishing: Greek drama becomes vivid, pliant and graphic, the extremes of emotion expressed in a tempestuous blend of song, sound, word and gesture. It is, again, rather relentless and highly strung.

But the performers - disciplined, intense and tireless - take the stage by storm.

FINANCIAL TIMES, by Sarah Hemming, Metamorphoses/Elektra, The Pit, Barbican, London, UK

  


  

Direction, text adaptation, dramaturgy of music and gesture: Włodzimierz Staniewski

Cooperation: Mariusz Gołaj

Translation: Jerzy Łanowski

Adaptation of ancient songs: Enkymasin, Tripoda Mantheion, Promoleth Helicona, Hode Galatan, Archan auxet Ageratoi, Asklepion Aeisomen – Maciej Rychły
Autophonoi – Anna-Helena McLean

Animation: Daniel Tumanowicz, Rafał Tumanowicz

Premiere Cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Grzegorz Podbiegłowski, Anna Dąbrowska, Anna-Helena McLean, Elżbieta Rojek, Agnieszka Mendel, graduates of Academy for Theatre Practices "Gardzienice"

In subsequent casts performed, among others: Julia Bui-Ngoc, Karolina Cicha, Bartosz Nowakowski, Esztella Levko, Benedict Hitchins, Justyna Jary, Aleksandra Gronowska, Barbara Songin, Alicja Żmigrodzka, Marek Kościółek, Maniucha Bikont, Emilia Śniegoska, Emilia Raiter, Marie Paskova, Alina Jurczyszyn, Ivor Houlker, Artem Manuilov, Martin Quintela, Lia Ikkos Serrano, Jan Żórawski

Current cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Anna Dąbrowska, Paweł Kieszko, Dorota Kołodziej, Kacper Lech, Magdalena Pamuła, Maciej Gorczyński, Tetiana Oreshko; musicians: Gabriela Żmigrodzka/Karolina Rudaś, Lubomir Ischuk, Rafał Granat, Filip Pysz, Kamil Gosek, Kacper Gosek. And the graduates from Academy for Theatre Practices.

The first presentations: January 2004 - "Polski Ekspres" Festival organized by Der Hebbel am Ufer Theater in Berlin (coproduction).

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

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