director: Krzysztof Garbaczewski
dramaturgy: Marcin Cecko
set design: Krzysztof Garbaczewski,
costumes: Svenja Gassen
music: Joanna Duda
lighting, video: Robert Mleczko
mixing: Łukasz Jata
world premiere: 25 January 2013
Towards the end of the 1830s, Juliusz Słowacki announced the creation of a “grand poem of the type of Ariosto, that would be composed of six tragedies, that is, drama chronicles”. It was planned to be a kind of literary chronicle presenting the magical beginnings of the Polish state, referring to traditions, legends and pagan stories from the times of the Slavs. The project, however, was only partially turned into reality; two romantic tragedies were created, Balladyna (1839) and Lilla Weneda (1840). Balladyna, included in the canon of Polish romantic dramas, is the story of the desire of power maturing into the role of the criminal.
In Słowacki’s work, Balladyna and Alina are sisters living with their mother in a poor cottage in the woods. The action of Balladyna by playwright Marcin Cecko and director Krzysztof Garbaczewski, however, is set in a small research centre on the edge of primeval forest by Lake Gopło in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian province. In the rundown, declining centre, young people genetically modify seeds of cultivated plants for agricultural companies in the area. In winter, during measurement activities in Lake Gopło, one technical employee, Grabiec, falls into the ice-hole. Saved by a miracle, he claims that on the bottom of the lake he saw an alien creature, a mutant... He secretly tries to find it, driven by an incomprehensible feeling for the “inhuman”. Meanwhile, the centre is visited by a Polish investor, dreaming of a modern agricultural empire rooted in distant tradition – he wants to take over the place and develop a project of genetic modifications.
The creators of the performance follow Słowacki’s plot step by step, with original scenery and with their own words. Despite the biotechnological background, it remains a drama concentrated on Balladyna, her deeds and the evolution of her psyche.
“In Marcin Cecko’s Balladyna, instead of a poor cottage there is a rundown laboratory. Balladyna, Alina, their mother, Grabiec and Filon are employees dealing on a daily basis with production of genetically modified potatoes and cotton. What is left from Słowacki are names, snatches of the intrigue and romantic fantasy, combining the fairy-tale world and the real one – turned into a scientific fantasy combining the human and the inhuman worlds. In passing, during his laborious production, Filon creates a half-plant/half-human. Grabiec, having fallen into the lake, falls in love with Goplana and as a consequence of a genetic intervention, he slowly turns into a willow. The experiments end with failure, nevertheless both inhuman creatures, thrown into the litter bin, will meet and connect joyfully... Post-humanist elements are a permanent fascination in the theatre of Krzysztof Garbaczewski and Cecko. One can associate it with bio-art, or more broadly with art's interest in the topic of the end of human beings, whose poles are delineated on one hand by Stelarc, experimenting with genetics and body, and on the other by Melancholia by Lars von Trier or the latest cycle by Zbigniew Libera, New Histories.”
Marcin Kościelniak, Tygodnik Powszechny 2013, no. 6
“The whole laboratory thread in the first part is shown on a screen – it is a direct broadcast from what is happening outside the screen, somewhere in the bowels of the theatre. The film is black and white, very grainy, as on an old TV set. Seriousness borders with mockery, tacky music as if taken from a horror movie adds to the mood, cameras follow the characters or show the image from a bird’s-eye view, scientific language mixes with intimate confessions. The laboratory is not only a place to earn money (which is not going so well), but a place where shady experiments are carried out. […] Nothing is obvious here, even death – it turns out that Alina is still alive. Nature plays weird tricks, even though nature is not visible on the stage (screen). Well, the human being is a part of nature, and the human being is responsible for the tricks here. In this part of the performance, the focus is on the topic of breeding, change, subordination of nature, another organism.”
Joanna Targoń, e-teatr.pl, 23.05.2013
“The second half is a gender performance by Balladyna, who rebels against her romantic upbringing. Its symbol is the scene when under a neon light and a sign with an inscription from above the facade of the Polish Theatre, styled to resemble the one over the gate to the Auschwitz camp, saying “Naród sobie” [“The Nation Unto Itself”], her father trains her to be a patriotic Pole, always ready to give her life for her homeland: “Get down! Rise up! Who are you? A small Pole”. […] To pop-culture and peasant values, in Poznań’s Balladyna, Krzysztof Garbaczewski and Marcin Cecko add the idea of genetic modification of Polishness: a GMO Balladyna as the last chance for Poland to go outside the scenario written for the homeland by its bards. Announcing in the 1990s the end of the romantic paradigm, Maria Janion expressed at the same time her hope that in the new reality there would be some space for the legacy of romanticism, read anew: for the grand philosophy of existence contained in it, dramatic dilemmas of individual freedom and the resulting tragic-ironic tensions. The time has come for Polish theatre to take a closer look at this aspect of the bards’ legacy.”
Aneta Kyzioł, Polityka 2013, no. 7