35th / 14th International Festival of Alternative and New Theatre
35 / 14. интернационални фестивал алтернативног и новог театра

Novi Sad, 25th June - 3rd July 2008

Wed, 2nd July
Witold Gombrowicz
The Youth Theatre, Novi Sad (Serbia)
| 22:00, The Youth Theatre, Evening Stage

Translated from Polish by: PhD Zoran Djerić
Adapted, directed, music: Srdjan Radaković
Set and costume design: Marina Sremac
Choreographers: Olivera Kovačević Crnjanski and Frosina Dimovska
Lighting design: Žarko Lazić

Witold Gombrowicz - Ivan Djurić
Father - Predrag Momčilović
Mother - Marijana Prpa Fink
Janusz - Saša Stojković
Jerzy - Ervin Hadžimurtezić
Rena - Jovana Filipović
Krisya - Marija Mitrović

The duration of the play is 75 minutes.

For Gombrowicz history is a lie, madness of lies. However, in the drama History he is interested more in the shape-shifting speed of lies, that is, the diversity of the models of society and power always materialised in the form of shoes as a basic means of the destruction of the ‘barefooted’ individual. .
Srdjan Radaković


Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), was not only one of the most important Polish emigrant novelists, but also the author of avant-garde dramas which earned him recognition first in the world, and after his death in Poland as well. He wrote three dramas, Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy (Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda, written in 1934/35, published in 1938, premiered as late as 1957, first staged in our country in Slovenia in 1973/74, and in Serbia in 1985), The Wedding (Ślub, written 1944-45, published in Polish 1953. Its world premiere was in France in 1964, Yugoslav premiere in Sarajevo in 1977, but Jerzy Jarocki’s production in the Serbian National Theatre in 1981 was more memorable) and An Operetta (Operetka, written for a long time, first published in 1966, premiered in 1969, in our country produced as soon as in 1970). All three dramas are known as parodies of great genres - Gombrowicz’s ‘perpetual conflict with all that Form’; they even thematically resemble ‘royal’ Shakespearean dramas, but the formal structure hides yet another, profoundly intimate structure’… Gombrowicz introduced the royal myth into a system which stems from his psyche, but not only that - it also has its roots in his personal and family history. In an interview Gombrowicz himself revealed that in his novels and dramas there is a ‘persona who knows everything’ and can be ‘called a director’… Jeleński added that this ‘director’ is obviously Gombrowicz himself ‘in one of his embodiments. Just in case, he appears wearing a mask, frequently covering his tracks to such an extent that his true embodiment is not the character named ‘Witold’ or ‘Gombrowicz’, but the one who is his companion – the ‘Doppelgänger’.’History, a drama reconstructed and made public after the author’s death, is an exception: ‘Witold is not only the director here (he directs the development of the action, provokes others imposing new forms on them); he also speaks in his own voice in this drama and – the most peculiar of all – in the role of ‘Barefooted’ he takes the symbolical dimension of the drama upon himself.’ (Jeleński).
The last Gombrowicz’s drama, History, adds yet another trait to his egocentric characters – barefootedness. A feeling of humbleness, and at the same time all-mightiness, is expressed in Witold’s soliloquy in the first act, when the barefooted seventeen-year-old boy is transformed into a missionary - Barefooted, who believes he is ‘responsible for the world’, but  is also the ‘master of the world’. A mature author speaks through the boy’s mouth – all his life torn ‘between Boy and God’, but a God who is barefooted like him.

In Gombrowicz’s History there is a confrontation of two images: of the old and new worlds. The old world represents archaic forms, such as snobbery, which defy any kind of change. In one verse Witold accuses himself of the assassination of Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, in Sarajevo. This event, as Jeleński observes, is similar to a piece of news brought up in a history film, which allows a date to be accepted as the end of the old world and the commencement of contemporary drama.’

PhD Zoran Djerić

The 20th century has already been proclaimed to be the cruellest period of human history, and at the turn of the 21st century it can be claimed that history will continue to be nothing but cruelty. That is why the phrase about the banality of evil, the everyday so ‘commonplace’ and ‘patriotic’ so to say, usual practice, is still up-to-date, philosophically grounded by Hannah Arendt who followed Jaspers’s footsteps, only to be joined by yet another contemporary in the field of art – Witold Gombrowicz. For the first time outside Poland, where it has been performed only once, directed by Srdjan Radakovic, Gombrowicz’s ‘History’ (translated by PhD Zoran Djeric) is now playing for Novi Sad’s audiences in the Youth Theatre.     
If together with the issue of banality Hannah Arendt raised the issue of responsibility, then Gombrowicz echoes her in that, as his ‘History’ is a mostly biographical, confessional drama about his own (in)ability to find his ground in an environment inhabited by real, ‘factional’ characters and events in the light of the double world-war mission of destroying any sense and faith in the good. The main hero of the drama is the author himself, who in fragments tells his own history made of refusal to accept/rejection of the immediate (family) and wider (state/s) social environment at the times of World War I and II, that is, immediately before or after them. Manifestly barefooted, young Witold fails in his attempt to make his father, mother, professors, emperors, statesman, Pilsudski, Hitler, Stalin, etc get rid of their shoes. And how all than ended up is a well known fact.

Igor Burić, Dnevnik, 11th March 2008 
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