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Reviewed by:
  • V Festival of the Union of European Theatres
  • Anna Krajewska-Wieczorek
V Festival of the Union of European Theatres. Cracow. 20 September–20 October 1996.

The V Festival of the European Union Theatres in Cracow gathered eleven productions from eight countries along with nineteen productions from the host city. The festival, under the artistic direction of Józef Opalski, proved a vibrant forum for theatre, art exhibits, film screenings, and discussions between audiences and prominent theatre directors. Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish production of Witold Gombrowicz’s Ivona, Princess of Burgundia opened a month of performances, which featured Molière’s The Miser from the Katona József Színház Theatre of Budapest (directed by Gábor Zsámbéki), Toward Peer Gynt: Exercises for Actors from Italy’s Teatro di Roma (directed by Luca Ronconi), Lear, or an Actress’s Dream from Barcelona’s Teatre Lliure (based on King Lear, directed by Ariel Garcia Valdés), Chekhov’s Three Sisters from Bucharest’s Teatrul L.S. Bulandra (directed by Alexandru Darie), The Moon Doesn’t Always Shine (the Italian singer Milva’s new recital of Brecht’s songs, directed by Giorgio Strehler). Milva’s performance was followed by two productions of Brecht by Piccolo Teatro di Milano: The Exception and the Rule (directed by Strehler) and How Much Does Iron Cost? (directed by Carlo Battistoni). Paris’s Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe presented Shakespeare’s King Lear (directed by Georges Lavaudant), the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus brought A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by Karin Beier), and London’s Royal National Theatre brought Ken Campbell’s Violin Time (directed by Colin Watkeys).

Among the Polish productions performed during the festival in Cracow were acclaimed works by directors such as Jerzy Grzegorzewski (Mickiewicz’s Forefathers’ Eve—Twelve Improvisations and So-called Mankind in Madness, based on S. I. Witkiewicz), Jerzy Jarocki (Gombrowicz’s The Marriage and Exhumation, based on Witkiewicz), Andrzej Wajda (Mishima), Krystian Lupa (The Lunatics, based on Hermann Broch’s novel), Rudolf Ziolo (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Tadeusz Bradecki (Gombrowicz’s Operetta ), and Maciej Wojtyszko (Slawomir Mrozek’s Love in the Crimea).

Two new interpretations of classics made the greatest impression at the festival. Although Bergman’s staging of Ivona and Luca Ronconi’s Toward Peer Gynt utilized different conventions, both seemed to be guided by the same principle: a precise vision perfectly enacted. Thematically, these productions shared a focus on crises of integrity and identity.

Ivona, Princess of Burgundia, written in 1935 and Gombrowicz’s first play, remains his most compelling work for the stage. Ingmar Bergman brought his second major staging of the work to Cracow. His first interpretation of this play premiered in Munich in 1980. Bergman’s decision to grapple with the play for a second time suggests the challenge that Ivona presents even for a director of his stature. Bergman’s 1996 Ivona masterfully exploits the means and conventions of the late nineteenth-century proscenium stage. Bergman stages the play in front of a painted backdrop representing a modest country estate with a palace hidden in the park. Although Prince Philip wears a red velvet suit and soft sneakers, his father King Ignatius and his courtiers appear in military uniforms that suggest provincial Germany at the beginning of the century, while the women of the court wear costumes reminiscent of the 1920s. The highly conventionalized etiquette of the court is expressed through precise choreography. The movement of the royal group is swift and fit, suggesting a classical ballet—or rather the ease and finesse of actors in a musical, as the production’s score suggests.

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Figure 1.

King Ignatius (Erland Josephson), the Cardinal (Ingvar Kjellson), and Ivona (Nadja Weiss) in the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm’s production of Witold Gombrowicz’s Ivona, Princess of Burgundia, directed by Ingmar Bergman. V Festival of the Union of European Theatres, Cracow. Photo: Marek Pabis.

The play’s greatest theatrical challenge is the title character of Ivona, one that too often remains unresolved in performance. In Bergman’s staging, Ivona (who utters only about a dozen words throughout the play) upholds a magnetic stage presence...

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pp. 343-346
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