The Polish Case: Poor Theatre/s and Cultural Ecology

  • Teemu Paavolainen
Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Grotowski purportedly detested one another. As Jan Kott puts it, “Grotowski respected Kantor, but Kantor hated Grotowski.” Coming as they did from the fine arts and actor training, respectively, their very names have become metonymical of larger trends—conveniently, we may dub these a theatre of objects and a theatre of the actor—yet despite these alleged emphases, the general interest almost always seems to focus on the directors themselves. As such, they would surely be the best known, internationally, to have emerged from their native Poland in the latter part of the twentieth century. Frequently, this is indeed all that they are conceded to have in common; to combine the two in one study may even strike one as odd, given only the prototypical binaries briefly sketched above. In Western criticism, much has however been made of this Polishness, and in ways intriguingly similar concerning both. Again, a stereotypical image of “Poland” is applied not only to explain their work but, arguably, to compensate for the critics’ often-limited language skills: “Embarrass[ed] of admitting the depths of their own ignorance,” foreign reviewers would often conclude that their productions “not only happened to come out of postwar Poland, but could only have come from there.”


Image Schema Body Politic Poor Theatre Soviet Bloc Cultural Ecology 
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© Teemu Paavolainen 2012

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  • Teemu Paavolainen

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