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The Tour of Eimuntas Nekrošius’ Last Production “The Marriage”

On November 23, 24 the tour of the Warsaw National Theatre will take place at the Youth Theatre. It will feature The Marriage, the last production of director Eimuntas Nekrošius, based on the play of the same title by Witold Gombrowicz. Nekrošius had started his creative path at the Youth Theatre and here we will say farewell to his last work.

W. Gombrowicz’s The Marriage is one of the most significant works of Polish drama of the 20thcentury. This play not only broke the canons of the Romantic tradition, but it also encouraged transformation of theatrical language. Interpreting The Marriage used to be a challenge for Polish directors of different generations, and the best interpretations went down in the history of contemporary Polish theatre. Nekrošius was offered to stage The Marriage at the Warsaw National Theatre. After his monumental interpretation of The Forefathers’ Eve by Adam Mickiewicz, which he had created there in 2016, the production of The Marriage continued E. Nekrošius’ cooperation with this theatre. Alas, his rehearsals of Shakespeare’s King Lear, which were planned for later, never even started. The Marriage premiered in June of 2018. In November of the same year, Nekrošius passed away…

The Marriage by Witold Gombrowicz is a poetic treatise on creating the world out of nothing – out of a void. The main character, Henry, struggles with himself and with figures looming out of the darkness which envelops Gombrowicz’s “interhuman church” – the ruined world that must be rebuilt after the war. Yet it remains uncertain whether the action of The Marriage is set in reality or it is just Henry’s dream…

Where in the ruins of the old world order should we look for a new beginning? What do we encounter in life: other people or a picture of ourselves? Does our world create itself spontaneously among us? And if so, from where comes “so much noise” when we are with others? In The Marriage there are many allusions to Hamlet, but Gombrowicz understands tragedy otherwise, he sees it in everyday existence. That which appears mundane, becomes fatal to young Henry whose marriage turns into a funeral…

“Eimuntas Nekrošius’ The Marriage became quite an event when its premiere was announced. After all, the master from Lithuania is not brought in so he can take a look at the tradition of staging this play which is so immensely important for us, but rather to engage in a discussion with Gombrowicz, to show the dramatist’s work in the mirror of his own imagination, to illuminate it in an unexpected way. And, in fact, so it happened: Nekrošius, as he is used to, derives from the text a labyrinth of visual signs, cultural references and associations, he forms an enigmatic way of acting and thus creates an extremely rich and dense world of meanings and emotions. Consequently, the director poses a difficult but also stirring challenge to the audience.” – wrote Polish critics after the production’s premiere. At the same time, it was noted that in The Marriage Nekrošius does not shy away from humor and seeks lightness and transparency by diluting drama with buffoonery and commedia dell’arte

In Nekrošius’ last production, some of the themes essential to the director’s work are symbolically summed up. One of them is that of bonds between father, mother and son, which acquire symbolic meanings. Lukasz Drewniak, a prominent Polish theatre critic, who has been researching Nekrošius’ theatre from long ago, in his essay A Funeral in a Dream, dedicated to The Marriage, writes: “The space in Nekrošius’ The Marriage is a sheet of water that reflects people like mirrors. When disturbed, it starts to ripple, to shimmer, and reflections multiply. The sea of ​​time, the ocean of the past, the lifeless waters of death are the three-dimensional mirror which Henry had entered in his dream. The protagonist is trapped in a time loop: today’s father and mother are Henry and Molly in the past.” Danuta Stenka, Polish theatre and film star who plays the roles of both the mother and Molly, her son Henry’s fiancée, while talking about her communication with Nekrošius, recalls how, when she asked the director to explain his decision to cast her in such a double role, she received an answer that became the “key” for her: “Mommy loves her son so much that for him she can be everything…”

The warm creative relations between Nekrošius and the actors of the Warsaw National Theatre, established during the production of The Forefathers’ Eve, were further nurtured in The Marriage. The Polish theatre and film stars playing the main roles in the production rated their work with Nekrošius as special and unforgettable. “Nekrošius worked tirelessly. Even when we actors had a day off. It had been a long time since I had last worked with an artist who was so precise, so ruthless in his searches… I was impressed when he’d often end his narrative on how he imagined a scene or a situation with the sentence “But I don’t know if it’s good, maybe it’s completely otherwise?”. This is very close to me. Seeing the attitude to work and the humility of such a theatre giant as Nekrošius can really trigger your complexes”. – says actress D. Stenka.

Mateusz Rusin, the actor who plays Henry, believes that when offering him this role the director very carefully studied his imagination and activated it during rehearsals: “He reached areas which were still little known to me. He also wanted me to distance myself from the roles I had played so far. He emphasized that I should not be afraid to take risks.” Grzegorz Małecki, the actor who creates Drunkard, one of the main characters in the play and the production, observes: “Nekrošius acts like a scientist in a lab. He tries out various solutions with us, and then chooses the ones that seem the most interesting to him, the most convincing, because he has a very well-defined vision of the whole. Work with Nekrošius demands from the actor a lot of alertness, imagination, sensitivity, but also patience.” And Marcin Przybylski, who plays Sorcerer in The Forefathers’ Eve and Chancellor in The Marriage, says that “what is fascinating about working with Nekrošius is that he can create events while avoiding banalities and clichés. He is incredibly alert and far from weird for the sake of appearing weird. Although very often a viewer, who comes to the theatre, admits not having yet encountered anything like it.”

The Vilnius tour of the Warsaw National Theatre’s production The Marriage is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland and the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania.

Additional information:

  • The performance will be shown in Polish with translation into Lithuanian (subtitles).
  • Due to the limited number of seats, we will not be able to provide invitations for media representatives and all performing arts professionals, so those willing to see the performance are invited to purchase their own tickets in advance.