Nowy Teatr Warsaw, Poland, 2017
Directed by Wojtek Ziemilski
about the production
Author and director Wojtek Ziemilski creates projects that hover on the boundary of theatre and performance, he takes interest in analysing communication and language, as well as choreography – communication by means of dance and configurations of the body or its parts in space. This interest has even led him to an investigation of the language of the deaf. One Gesture is a piece about the communication of those who hear with the deaf. How does this type communication work? How knowledge, emotions and culture are conveyed, created and processed? It is fascinating how ineffective our languages seem when we purport to describe sign languages, and even the world of the deaf in general.
Wojtek Ziemilski investigates this type of communication on its natural, non-verbal level: ‘For me, the piece is about signing, about the world of sign language, which is not the same as the world of French, German or Polish. It functions differently, it is based on different senses. The more I have become immersed in it, the more it has become clear to me that it is the perfect dramatic medium: a gesture, but also the life of the deaf in a world of signing, a world that transcends language. It is a way to experience the world and communicate with one another. Sign language gains aesthetic value in the context of theatre, in a sense, it resembles dance. There are many ways to sign. Every human being does it differently. These differences are fascinating,’ Ziemilski notes. The piece allows the audience to observe how the manner of our communication determines what we say and what we withhold, how we approach the one whom we address, how we can share not just content, but also emotions. According to Wittgenstein’s thesis, the limits of my language mean the limits of my world. One Gesture portrays the differences in the ways people, by using so many languages, as well as the languages of the hearing and the deaf, grasp the world around them. If we look at how the deaf sign, we become attentive to the degree to which the communication of those who hear is gestic and mobile, to how physical every encounter of people in one space is at bottom, to how much we are depriving ourselves of if we shut these physical encounters out of our communication and strip it down to text, voice or video.
Wojtek Ziemilski and his collaborators are not, however, interested in a purely aesthetic investigation of signing, torn out of the lived world. On stage, he has created space for 4 actors with various degrees of impaired hearing, so that they might, among other things, tell their stories. Besides analyses of sign communication and the choreographies that arise out of this communication, and besides the interaction of two communication systems, the play points up the everyday experiences and struggles which the deaf undergo, such as those during a doctor’s visit or at an office.
The play was created in Nowy Teatr, a theatre founded by Krzysztof Warlikowski and his group of regular collaborators in Warsaw. His principal aim as an artistic theatre director is communication and the establishment of purposeful dialogue with the audience. This dialogue can be based on a sense of understanding or can begin by a provocation that goes against routine manners of thinking. Nowy Teatr does not limit itself to theatrical productions. It purports to be a place that occupies and entirely new artistic position, attempting to connect with the life of the capital’s population and change the way they perceive the city. It purports to be a free space for artists and curators, for people filled with thoughts and ideas.
“One of the scenes was a coincidence. I asked Adam to sign about anything, to try it out, and he started talking about his favourite anime film – it was great, I’d never seen anything like it before. This part of the performance is a tribute to the possibilities of sign language that are inaccessible to the hearing. Because signing visual poetry is a specific kind of pantomime that can only be comprehended by the deaf. After all, I don’t know how to create a whole story using only one hand sign, one letter.”
We can learn a lot from Wojtek Ziemilski’s One Gesture. About the world of the deaf and about the way different sign language systems function. It is an excellent theme for a play. About the invisible minority and about language. A theme for theatre that wants to stay close to life, because it is also a play about people, about four heroes and their histories; victories and defeats, dreams and disappointments. But the hour-long performance at the Nowy Teatr studio is no educational play – after all, it’s all so performative! Ultimately, the base matter here is the gesture.
Piotr Morawski, Mimo slov, Dwutygodnik.com
réžia / directed by Wojtek Ziemilski
scéna, zastupujúci režisér / set design, associate director: Wojciech Pustoła
svetelný dizajn / lighting design: Artur Sienicki
music: Aleksander Żurowski
costumes: Krystian Jarnuszkiewicz
consultations: Katarzyna Glozak
stage manager: Marta Śmierzchalska
assistant director: Joanna Niemirska
translation: Katarzyna Glozak, Agnieszka Misiewicz, Anna Borycka, Małgorzata Wasilewska
production manager: Maria Wilska
lights: Patryk Adamski
video: Marek Kurpios
cast: Marta Abramczyk, Jolanta Sadłowska, Paweł Sosiński, Adam Stoyanov
Wojtek Ziemilski (1977) was born in California but spent most of his life in Poland. In 2002, he graduated with a degree in Philosophy from the Université Pierre-Mendès France in Grenoble and from the University of Warsaw. In 2004, he graduated in Film Directing at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. He is a lecturer at performance workshops in Poland and Portugal, and explores both in theory and practice the relationship between visual art and theatre. In his theatre productions, he combines film techniques, video-art and multi- media performances. He collaborates with the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, the National Centre for Culture and the Warsaw Theatre Institute. He publishes articles on contemporary art on a popular blog. His production Small Narration (Teatr Studio, Warsaw) was part of the main programme at the IF Divadelná Nitra in 2011
video of the production: yes
script of the productio: SK, EN, PL
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