2012-03-19
2012-03-26

Swinarski Konrad

(1929–1975), director, stage designer and the most renowned Polish theatre producer of the second half of the twentieth century. He studied painting at art schools in Katowice, Sopot and Łódź, before joining the course in directing at the Warsaw State Drama Academy (PWST). He never completed his studies, but received his diploma in directing extramurally in 1970. Following his debut as a stage designer in 1954 and as a director in 1955, he left that year for Berlin where he worked at the Berliner Ensemble as an assistant to Bertolt Brecht and as a director (Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, 1956). He returned to Poland in 1957 and soon became one of the leading figures in the Polish theatre following the post-Stalinist thaw. In his productions at the time, he used various devices inspired by Brecht’s ideas. He collaborated primarily with theatres in Warsaw: Dramatyczny (Brecht’s Mr Puntilla and his Man Matti, 1958; Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Frank V, 1962), Współczesny (Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, 1958) and the Ateneum (Historia o Miłosiernej, czyli testament psa based on Ariano Suassuna’s Auto da Compadecida [The Rogues’ Trial], 1960). He also directed at Gdańsk’s Teatr Wybrzeże (Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, 1959) and in Berlin (Auto da Compadecida, 1962; Aleksandr Sukhovo-Kobylin’s Tarelkin’s Death, 1964; Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Romulus the Great, 1967). He enjoyed great success with his world premiere staging of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade at Berlin’s Schiller-Theater, with this production considered the best German performance of 1964. From 1965 he worked at Kraków’s Teatr Stary, where he created his most important productions. His original stagings of Romantic drama caused a sensation (Zygmunt Krasiński’s Nie-Boska Komedia [Un-Devine Comedy], 1965; Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, 1966; Juliusz Słowacki’s Fantazy, 1967; Sędziowie [The Judges] and Klątwa [The Curse], both by Stanisław Wyspiański, 1968), as did his versions of Shakespeare’s dramas (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1970 and All’s Well That Ends Well, 1971) and his productions of contemporary drama (Jean Genet’s The Maids 1966; Ireneusz Iredyński’s Żegnaj Judaszu [Farewell Judas], 1971). The crowning achievements of this series of works were, above all, the legendary versions of Mickiewicz’s Dziady (Forefathers’ Eve; premiere 18 February 1973) and Wyspiański’s Wyzwolenie (Liberation; 30 May 1974). Swinarski presented in them in the context of a radical polemic with socially engrained cognitive stereotypes and visions of the Romantic tradition, aiming to deconstruct ready-made clichés, seeking instead ambiguities and through them uncovering unexpected meanings in well-known scenes and texts. The outstanding development of his career was unexpectedly cut short by his death in a plane crash near Damascus. Grotowski encountered Swinarski during a camp organised for members of Student Academic Circles near Nowogard in the summer of 1954. Later, despite differences in their philosophies of theatre and their aesthetics, Swinarski enjoyed a particular bond with Grotowski which, years later, he considered ‘the deepest artistic friendship in Poland’. In comparisons made between Grotowski and Swinarski in later years, they are both presented as undertaking similar challenges while maintaining an interesting relationship with each other which is worthy of further consideration.

Bibliography: 

Małgorzata Dziewulska: Swinarski i Grotowski: dwa teatry, dwa bluźnierstwa, „Dialog” 1990 nr 12, s. 87–94.

Konrad Swinarski: Wierność wobec zmienności, wstęp Marta Fik, wybór i opracowanie Marta Fik i Jacek Sieradzki, przypisy Jacek Sieradzki, Warszawa 1988.

Zbigniew Osiński: Teatr Dionizosa. Romantyzm w polskim teatrze współczesnym, Kraków 1972.

Joanna Walaszek: Konrad Swinarski i jego krakowskie inscenizacje, Warszawa 1991.

Z korespondencji Jerzego Grotowskiego do Barbary i Konrada Swinarskich, „Teatr” 2000, nr 1–3, s. 71–72.