Polish Cultural Institute, Ferdydurke

Review in Issue 19-2 | Summer 2007

Already seen at Edinburgh, all across America, and as far afield as Japan, it has taken eight years for this award-winning production by the Lublin-based Teatr Provisorium to reach London. Gombrowicz’s 1937 novel – Ferdydurke – is here condensed into an hour-long play of three scenes, making the most of the actual dialogue provided by the author. In a kind of prologue, however, we are introduced to the physical language of the piece. Here the relation between self and other is seen in the mirror of face pulling, a challenge to the deadpan seriousness with which adults affect not to notice each other. A simple wooden box-frame contains only a bench, which transforms the ‘set’ from a park to a school, from a town house to a country manor. This open, and yet confined, space amplifies the grotesque grimaces, the spitting and farting, of the four late-middle aged actors. Their effort with English pronunciation (in Danuta Borchardt’s translation) compounds the desire to be understood. That is the dilemma of the narrator, addressing a theatre in which the seats do not transform at all. In the sense of ‘losing face’, though, we all realise that this face is never simply our own, but a hostage to those cannibals of our cherished ideals the others, those who ascribe to us the absurdities of which they would rather be unburdened than enjoy for themselves. This is the very paradox not simply of the actor, but of the audience.

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2007

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-2
p. 32