NOTES FROM EXILE

Sabina Baral

TEATR POLONIA

Magda Umer

NOTES FROM EXILE Behind this exceptional, emotionally-charged production are three women – the author Sabina Baral, plus the creators of the stage adaptation – actress Krystyna Janda, famous among other things for her work with Wajda, and director Magda Umer. The real-life story of a Polish Jewish woman, forced to emigrate in 1968, is accompanied by live music – Polish and Jewish songs come to the fore at moments when words are too painful, or as a Brechtian commentary on what is being said. “How much suffering can a person suffer before going mad? They came from the woods, they appeared from holes in the earth, they crawled out of their hiding places in cupboards, in cellars, in attics, the half-dead came out of the concentration camps, they returned from Siberia and Kazakhstan, back home to Poland. They wanted to live here, where their parents were born and where we were born, their children. They had gone through the hellish terror of war, and after years of suffering and and fear they decided again that Poland was their country. They stayed here another twenty-three years (…). Before the Polish state forced them to emigrate in 1968.” A forty-year old story in this production gains a contemporary dimension. Notes from Exile is one of the most remarkable productions to be seen in Polish theatre during the past season, and at the Divine Comedy festival it won awards for best production and best performance.

Notes from Exile is what plays should be like. It was emotionally charged and gripping. Many audience members left in tears: devastated. In the tradition of Brecht, it was also a socio-political call for action. Through the songs and the contemporary films, the audience was constantly reminded of real pain and real hate outside of the old theatre walls. Notes From Exile and Krystyna Janda’s performance were simply phenomenal.
– Rem Myers, The Theater Times

The brilliant artist opted for modesty paired with a certain ruthlessness of her message. She is accompanied onstage only by the music band of Janusz Bogacki, and separated from the audience by a transparent screen. It is no more than an apparent partition, providing an additional medium for the shocking memories that come from the actor’s lips, portrayed on it together in dramatic close-ups of her face.
– www.boskakomedia.pl

The subjects of Polish-Jewish relations, and of the traumas following the Second World War and Nazi occupation, are returning to Polish theatre; for example, in the drama Our Class (2010), written by Tadeusz Słobodzianek. Notes from Exile, presented on the stage of the Polonia Theatre, is a documentary show. It is based on the memories of a March immigrant, a Polish-Jewish woman who had to leave Wroclaw as a student. Krystyna Janda, who speaks the words of Baral, stands in the depths illuminated by the faint light of the stage. Behind a translucent screen, as if in some strange reality, she appears distant, like a dark memory. She stands at the microphone, her face magnified, filmed live and displayed on the screen, expressing terrible fatigue. We, the audience, listen and watch with a heavy heart.
– Tomasz Miłkowski, www.critical-stages.org

MAGDA UMER Songwriter, playwright, director, actress, winner of the Master of Polish Speech award (2005). In 2009 she gained the Gloria Artis award for her contribution to culture. She has appeared in many television and theatre productions, including: Winter Sorrow, Big Zbig Show (1992), The Men In My Life (1995), Zielono mi at the festival in Opole in 1997. She is the author of documentaries: Conversations At Dusk And Dawn, featuring Agnieszka Osiecka (1996) and Jeremi Przybora (1990), a cycle of interviews about life and creativeness with the title Blessed Child and a number of television programmes, such as Their First Love (in 1999-2001). She produced Agnieszka Osiecka’s play The White Blouse with Krystyna Janda in 1987 and A Disappointed Woman in 2010 for Och-Teatr. She has recorded ten albums, including Autumn Concert, Where are you?, Everything is Over, Lullabies, Nights and Dreams, Still Waiting for Something. In 1993 the director Grażyna Pieczuro made a documentary about her entitled Magda.

KRYSTYNA JANDA Actress, director, journalist and artistic director of two Warsaw theatres, the Och-Teatr and the Divadlo Polonia. President of the Krystyna Janda Foundation Na Rzecz. She is a graduate of the State Artistic Secondary School and State Theatre College in Warsaw. She also graduated from the first level of the music and ballet school of the Warsaw Operetta. While still a student, she appeared as Masha in Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Her theatrical debut was as Aniela in the play Maiden Vows in Warsaw’s Ateneum Theatre and as Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Teatr Maly in Wroclaw. She first appeared on the film screen in Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble. She has been acting and creating continuously since the 1980s, playing over sixty theatre roles, including classical drama, Shakespeare and the contemporary theatre repertoire of Polish and foreign playwrights. In the Television Theatre she played over 45 roles, from classic to contemporary, and another approximately fifty film roles. She has won many awards in both Poland and elsewhere, including a Palme d’or at the Cannes festival for her performance in the film Przesłuchanie (Interrogation) and the Charlemagne Medal in the sphere of culture for her contribution to the unification of Europe. She acts, sings, directs, writes essays, publishes musical albums and books, and has won many awards as the country’s most popular and most respected actress. In a readers‘ survey by the Polityka magazine she won the title of the most significant Polish actress of the 20th century. Through her foundation she has set up two Warsaw theatres, of which she is the artistic director: Divadlo Polonia and Och-Teatr. In 2014, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism, she won Poland’s Freedom Award for her work in the artistic sphere.

DIVADLO POLONIA The theatre is part of the family foundation of Krystyna Jana Na Rzecz, founded by the actress Krystyna Janda, her husband, the cameraman Edward Klosinski and her daughter, the actress Maria Seweryn. According to its statutes, the theatre’s chief mission is to support and spread culture, above all through the leadership of the theatres Och-Teatr and Polonia. A further goal is to make culture and theatre accessible to the public, to focus on excluded people, to work with children’s homes, Warsaw hospitals, educational institutions, universities of the third age, care homes and so on, to engage in charitable activity and promote young artists.