HYMN TO LOVE closes director Marta Górnicka’s European triptych inspired by Mother Courage. An image of an orchestra playing in concentration camps, as well as the subject of the Holocaust, are the starting points for a play about the rise of nationalist tendencies in Europe and the refugee crisis. The director says about her production: „Hymn to love for orchestra, stuffed-animal choir, and others is a show about Europe closing its ranks. Nation after nation is crying out: “Give us back our country!” And Poles are eagerly joining in the chorus. It is also a show about how every nation loves to forget. And how human time-bombs are so furious they're blowing their fuses. Thus, history repeats itself. So, just for us, the chorus will sing The Song of the Forgetful Nation…” In Hymn to Love, I've composed a monstrous „National Songbook” out of various versions of the national anthem, marches, patriotic songs, religious hymns and folk songs – our shared musical repertoire, so eagerly being mixed by the nationalist rappers of today: „TIS A DAY OF BLOOD AND GLORY!” The Polish premiere took place in Teatr Polski in Poznan, the German premiere was in Gorki Theater in Berlin in June 2017 and the French premiere in November 2018 in Theatre des Celestines in Lyon. Since then, the production has been presented at European theatre festivals in Greece, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Russia and Switzerland. Hymn to Love won three awards for music, choreography, scenography and costumes at the DIVINE COMEDY festival in Krakow in 2017.
What strikes the audience from the very beginning in Hymn to Love is the stress on the difference and diversity manifested by the composition of the choir members: we see tall and short, younger and older people, adults and children, different races, and even people with disabilities. Thus, the chorus represents a real slice of the European (if not world) community.
The performers chant and shout, often almost spitting out the slogans that in recent years have contaminated newspapers, television, billboards, and other public media in Poland… At times the words from the stage such as “A guest at home, God at home” (“Gość w dom Bóg w dom!”) recall Polish traditions of hospitality, friendliness, and openness towards other people, but when they clash with purely nationalistic, xenophobic statements, and the contorted facial expressions of the choir members, they sound bitter and sarcastic.
In the performance, we recognize Polish traditional patriotic songs such as "March Polonia" deformed and mangled by quiet, but incessant tunes reminiscent of church hymns and Christmas carols. And, more importantly, very well-known tunes from the Communist era sometimes seep into the musical background of the performance, thus connecting the present political practices to the well-known Communist ways.
Throughout the performance the actors on stage march, group and regroup, sneer, and yell, and Górnicka, like a music conductor on a podium, but standing amidst the audience, triggers all these powerful moves and clamour, bringing to the fore complex subtexts and references, creating a rich, emotionally charged performance. Through the masterful orchestration of emotion, irony and paradox, using powerful, but basic movement and sound, she produces an unforgettable, sonorous tapestry of our current love-less reality.
– Krystyna Lipińska Illakowicz, European Stages
MARTA GÓRNICKA Director, singer, the founder of the avant-garde theatre Chorus of Women and libretto author. She graduated from Department of Drama Directing at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw. She also studied at the National Theatre Arts Academy in Kraków and graduated from Warsaw Fryderyk Chopin Music School. Since 2010 she has worked with the Theatre Institute in Warsaw, has founded the Chorus of Women and creates her own unique version of choral theatre. Górnicka’s plays Tu Mówi Chór, Magnificat, RequiemMachine, Hymn to Love, (M)other Courage have been invited to and presented at over forty theatre festivals worldwide, over such prestigious events as: Berliner Festspiele Foreign Affairs, Lyon Festival International de theatre SENS INTERDITS, International Theatre Festival Theater Spektakel in Zurich, Athens & Epidaurus Festival, International Theatre Festival MESS in Sarajevo, where Magnificat won three awards, and elsewhere. Górnicka has developed her own unique method of acting and vocal training, searching for an organic voice. She has taught many different acting workshops in Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Athens, Tel Aviv, Dresden, Nottingham and Kiev. In 2018, Marta Górnicka directed Jedem das seine. Ein Manifest in the Kammerspiele in Munich and Grundgesetz. Ein Chorisher Stresstest in front of the Brandenburg Gate as part of the 2018 anniversary of German unification (production: Maxim Gorki Theater).
THE CHORUS OF WOMEN FOUNDATION was established in 2015 and originates in a theatre project started by Marta Górnicka at the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw in 2009. The aim of the CHORUS OF WOMEN was to regain women for theatre, to bring the chorus back to theatre, to create a new language for it and a new form of stage presence. The work was guided by the idea of creating a post-modern choral theatre – an aesthetic, formal and ideological concept of theatre combining the power of the collective body/voice, a source relevance for the Western stage, with contemporary criticism of language as an instrument of power.