about the production
The six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle written by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård is often referred to as a literary sensation. The book is discussed among academics just as it is by the tabloid press. In 2006 – 7, the successful and award-winning young writer Knausgård began feeling a distaste for fiction. “It was a crisis. Just the idea of a made-up character in a made-up story made my stomach churn.” Knausgård looked for a method to describe reality as faithfully and truly as possible. The central character in his new work could be no one but himself, or more precisely, a character carrying his name, and the material could be nothing but his own life experiences. This Sisyphean and rather anti-literary effort could not but end in grotesque – Knausgård’s struggle is lost from the very outset and the author is very well aware of this. He tries nevertheless. And the reader observes this fascinating struggle on the space of more than 3 500 pages. Knausgård’s detailed many- paged descriptions of the most banal activities such as cleaning, shopping, feeding the children or an ordinary conversation over the phone, the reader feels almost physically present in situations such as birthday parties, he shares the author’s desire for escape. Physical involvement in the read text is one of the qualities that make this work stand out. Added to that – recapitulation, or rather a re-staging of these most banal of events from one’s own life. Knausgård brings the most intimate details of his life into the public space of literature. That is convenient for the contemporary reader, who often also searches for something publishable in their lives or even has the sphere of the publishable cover everything. The possibility to barter experience for the recognition of one’s peers is a powerful allure for the current generation of selfie-makers. The fact that the author named all of his characters after real people he knows makes the book into a unique social experiment. If you type those names in a search engine, you will find their pictures. The entirely self-destructive facet of this experiment is that Knausgård sacrificed, among other things, his family relationships to a literary career and fame.
It is no surprise that My Struggle caught the attention of innovative director Michał Borczuch and the TR Warszawa, who systematically work with contemporary dramatic texts that transgress the boundaries of dramatic conventions and provide new definitions of theatricality. With a company of actors who are used to staging undramatic situations in ways that captivate the audience, the director and his team have created a fascinating theatrical production that draws on dramatic de- vices to raise questions the novel could not. How much of our stories is created at the time of recollection and how much comes from memory? Which moments in our lives do we stage and which do we experience? When do we behave like characters in a drama following prearranged patterns and when are we authentic? In his own words, director Michał Borczuch saw My Struggle as an extensive epic meditation on reality: “The extreme, obsessive subjectivity, which at times makes me hate the writer, reveals the truth about our modern times, in which the experience of studying oneself as if in a selfie becomes a struggle for existence in a world brimming with people. Others can be very close to us, they can be part of our family, but when confronted with our egos, they are reduced to characters in a novel. Knausgård invites us to make our lives into literature. But there is a paradox here: when our life becomes important, any other life - even if preserved in the minutest detail - becomes anonymous. For this reason, when we developed the project, we juxtaposed Knausgård’s novel with the personal experiences of selected readers that will make a vital part of the production.” This four- hour long production is planned out to every little detail. Its quality is confirmed by the prestigious award Paszport Polityki 2017, which director Michał Borczuch received for My Struggle, an original and captivating piece filled with empathy that carries out a conscietious and unironic analysis of the motives of our egos, the mechanisms of memory and the role of art in our lives.
“He is masterful when it comes to time, tension and minute details. This adaptation of My Strug- gle is about our longing for ‘normalcy’, for ‘real life’ that we look for in more or less disguised fictions. Borczuch bases the production on par- adoxes, he presents ‘realism’ and ‘reality’ as an artifice built by a carefully concealed effort.”
(Witold Mrozek, Gazeta Wyborcza online – Culture)
‘My Struggle at TR Warszawa reminds of the marathons of Krystian Lupa, who would induce a strange state of concentration in his audience.’
(Jacek Wakar, Onet.pl)
directed by Michał Borczuch
adaptation: Tomasz Śpiewak
set design, costumes: Dorota Nawrot
light design: Jacqueline Sobiszewski
music: Bartosz Dziadosz
assistant director, video: Wojciech Sobolewski
production manager: Natalia Starowieyska
project curator in Szamocin: Agata Siwiak
artistic director of the theatre: Grzegorz Jarzyna
managing director: Natalia Dzieduszycka
production: TR Warszawa 2017
cast: Jan Dravnel, Gaia Dravnel, Dobromir Dymecki, Magdalena Kuta, Lech Łotocki, Maria Maj, Sebastian Pawlak, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Halina Rasiakówna, Paweł Smagała, Stefania Smagała, Justyna Wasilewska
Michał Borczuch (1979) is a Polish theatre director and author of adaptations. He graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and in directing from the National Academy of Theatre Arts in Krakow, and completed the Rolex Mentor Programme under the guidance of French director Patrice Chéreau. He was assistant to prominent Polish directors such as Kazimierz Kutz, Sławomir Mrożek and Krystian Lupa. He collaborated with Paweł Miśkiewicz on his production of Innocence, in which he also made a guest acting appearance at Divadelná Nitra 2004.
Since 2005, he directs works written by modern Polish dramatists, as well as classical plays. He has written adaptations of Georg Büchner’s Leonce and Lena (Dramatic Theatre in Warsaw, 2007), Frank Wedekind’s Lulu (Old Theatre in Krakow, 2007), The Picture of Dorian Gray (TR Warszawa, 2009), Werther (Old Theatre in Krakow, 2009), Hans, Dora and Wolf (Polish Theatre in Warsaw, 2012); in 2012, he staged War ’s Unwomanly Face at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. In 2015, he appeared at Divadelná Nitra with the piece Apocalypse, written according to the novels of Oriana Fallaci. In 2017, he directed The Call of Cthulu (New Theatre in Warsaw), inspired by the stories of H. P. Lovecraft.
His Apocalypse and All About My Mother have received the Grand Prize at the Divine Comedy Festival in Krakow (2015 and 2016).
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