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Profile Journey to the Inside of the Room

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Profile Journey to the Inside of the Room
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Sub-letting your own life

by Wolfgang Behrens

It was an unique room that first came to the stage of the Teatre Dramatyczny almost 50 years ago: a room, through which according to stage directions "a street seemed to lead". This room had all sorts of strange features – past and present merge into one another, the dead as well as the living stayed there or passed through. A man, who changed his names and thus remained nameless – lived there, or rather: he laid there in bed –, a man, who suffered from himself and a generation that couldn't cope with the change of living conditions after the Great War.

So it wasn't an especially comfortable room. But an important one: For with this room from his debut play "The Card Index" (1960), author Tadeusz Rozewicz succeeded in affiliating Polish drama to the modern age, which had just found its spearhead elsewhere in Samuel Beckett's Theatre of the Absurd. Rozewicz's work was also absurd and grotesque: the "exterior theatre" which is defined by intrigue and plot didn't interest him, he was far more taken by the "interior theatre" as he called it, which enables an insight into the inner state of humans by means of poetic- alienating methods.

Is the street inside or the room outside?
Now, almost half a century later, it seems as if Rozewicz's room is being let yet again. The name of the new resident is Jerzy Skin, a young 32-year old man, who had up until now lived in student accommodation. Renting the new flat was to be a step towards independence, a step away from the feeling of security into the wide world. But the world comes to Jerzy differently to how he would wish it to. It doesn't wait for him to step outside but walks into his flat instead. The room expands itself to the world. Or the world squeezes itself into the room, one can't really decide. Anyway, Jerzy increasingly loses his sense of orientation and can't say if there is a street leading through his room, or if his chair is standing on the street.

And yet, after five decades, the room has also changed. In Rozewicz's "The Card Index" a human watched his past life pass him by in his flat and couldn't really extend it to the present. Now a young man is being confronted with the disjointed present that he can't extend to the future. In addition to this, the modern room is now a post-modern room by means of the virtuoso literary quotes.

"Sandpit" myth
The young Polish author, who modified Rozewicz's room metaphor at the age of 23, is called Michal Walczak. By doing so he confidently placed himself within a great tradition that was in danger of being broken down (as Thomas Irmer describes in his report on Poland's theatrical landscape). Today Walczak is seen as one of the most important young playwrights in Poland. His play "Journey to the Inside of the Room" which had its world premiere in Radom in 2003, played a significant role (which makes it all the more surprising that – after others – it is only now being premiered in German).

Walczak is by now something similar to a specialist for games of deception, in which micro- and macrocosm, inside and outside, reality and symbolism devour each other. Already in his first play "Sandpit" (2002) a boy in a playground of a high density housing area thought up a whole world, in which quite an adult battle of the gender takes place with the girl next door. And through Walczak's quite realistic play "Mine" (2004) mythical figures and personifications spook around, which again and again make the proceedings near the closed mine in Wałbrzych (whose theatre commissioned the play) allegoric.