based on "Iphigenia in Tauris" by Euripides


Director’s note

The cult of Iphigenia among the Tauri, the Crimean people, known in ancient times as well as their kindred Scythians, or "our" Sarmatians – originated from a disaster. Iphigenia, charismatic girl, first miraculously saved at Aulis from under the blade of her father, infanticide (among the howling, nationalistic crowd, thirsty for innocent blood), lost for Hers, found among Others.

At the antipodes of the then so-called civilized world. She fell the Tauri from the sky. Monstrosity. Or perhaps, as in many similar topoi, she underwent a long exodus?

A stranger, who found some hospitality in a distant country? Just like the Black Madonna , painted on a portion of the supper table by Luke the Evangelist, who traveled long from the Holy Jerusalem to find rest and worship in our wild parts. Iphigenia is idolized during her life. By Toas , the leader of the Tauri , and by his people – in his will. Toas also gives her the keys to power. It is an extraordinary act of charity; anointing Stranger and elevating that Stranger above one’s own people. Toas makes Iphigenia a priestess of Artemis, the Black Madonna of Tauroplos. The Holy Virgin. Her image, cast in the statue, also once fell from the sky. It's a black meteor, like venerated in a wonderful temple in Ephesus, and - from time immemorial – in the Temple of Athena - the Guardian of the City, on the Acropolis. Eidolin, an icon, worshiped by the Tauri as the Holy of Holies, adorned throughout the centuries in votive gold, silver, ivory, ebony, diamond, and maybe even in amber dresses.

It had to be the object of desire of all sorts of filibusters and robbers, like those two, Orestes and Pylades. Robbing the shrines was "cool", both in the ancient and more recent days, to remind the two guerilla nobles of Działosza and Szreniawa coat of arms, who in 1430’s “stripped the Black Madonna of gold and jewels" (by Dlugosz) . Savages? Infidels? No! Ancestral nobility. Thugs inspired by ancient models of daredevils. Orestes and Pylades bluff us with their exclamations of Apollo’s manipulations (of whom Euripides opinion is bad indeed) but instead they plot, like professional cutthroats of Alcibiades’ manners. Iphigenia betrayed all the good new life, which she received as a gift, against her donors. She plots and betrays the noble Toas. Captivated by two dandies, she directs vicious spectacle of stealing the Holy of Holies from the Tauri and fleeing ignominiously. Her lamentations over the ties of kinship, over the lost homeland (which treated her like an animal for slaughter) sound like calming the conscience to justify the unworthy act of treason. All this intrigue, which cries out to heaven for vengeance, is woven into a warp, from which emerge two opposing worlds, "the Primitive" and "the Civilized". Let's go further - "the God-fearing" and "the Enlightened ," "the Commoners" and "the Aristocracy", "those of the third speed" and "those of the first" ... Who can recognize which ones are the depositaries of truth, will become the harbinger of a new, joyful news.

Włodzimierz Staniewski



Dark Energy
In Euripides' IPHIGENIA IN TAURIS, Staniewski's company, the Centre for Theatre Practices, GARDZIENICE, have found an incomparable medium for their intensely dynamic theatre. They seek to put us back in touch with the primal emotions and instincts seething just beneath the surface of our civilization, and with the ancient rituals which evolved to offer some control over those primal inner forces. This Greek play stages ritual responses to isolation, terror, love and xenophobia through the ancient myth which explained the barbarous, bloody dimension of the cult of Artemis.

A teenaged girl regains consciousness, after a terrifying near-death experience when her own father authorized her execution. She is alone and vulnerable in a bleak, backward land. Its inhabitants worship a virgin goddess strangely similar to the Artemis of hunting, menstruation and childbirth who demanded her own blood back in Greece. But in the Black Sea backwater where she has mysteriously arrived, King Thoas hails her as a holy woman and forces her to perform human sacrifices in honour of the goddess, helped by other captive Greek women also far from their native land.

Euripides' Tauris (today the southern Crimea), at the time when classical Athenians sailed there, was a half-Hellenised entrepôt where the worship of the Olympian gods had scarcely encroached on the ancient rites of the nomadic Scythians and the primitive, pastoral Taurians.

The story told in the play is an attempt to resolve some of the tensions between different ethnic groups' views of the gods and ritual practices, through focusing on the core action which united them all - blood sacrifice.  When Iphigenia's brother and brother-in-law are arrested in Tauris, the play stages the inevitable crisis when one community's obligation to sacrifice to their goddess, according to ancient custom, can't be reconciled with another community's equally strong obligation to preserve the lives of their kin--an obligation which the family of Iphigenia and Orestes, murderer of his own mother, have previously failed utterly to fulfill. 

The exiles in Tauris remember and re-enact Greek weddings rites, dancing and weaving the clothes for the statues of gods. They perform libations, funeral rites and a great procession in which Iphigenia takes the statue of Artemis and her polluted brother to be purified in the sea.

Euripides finally imposes a 'happy ending' through the unexpected intervention of a quite different goddess,  Athena. The Greeks escape, and the cult of the Black Sea Artemis migrates to Greece. The play thus exposes the psychological journey at the heart of sacrificial ritual and the hope it offers --  albeit illusory -- of humanity's ability to endure trauma and survive. But Staniewski's remarkable actors leave us in no doubt that the real problem, the dark energy within us all, which originally created the homicidal conflict in Iphigenia's family, can never be so easily overcome.

EDITH HALL, Research Professor, Royal Holloway University of London, Oxford University,

for the program in Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, Athens, Greece, 10.2011


Let us not forget that Euripides had a divine gift of creating myth-generating narrations.(...) Myths and heroes are born out of a catastrophe. (…) l can see Iphigenia thrown onto Krakowskie Przedmieście* on April 10th, where the air vibrates with the eternal Polish call: "Treason" and "Under your protection" (a Polish religious hymn). This happens under the protection of the Black Madonna, who is compared to the Tauric Artemis by Voltaire in a letter to Catherine the Great.

* the main street of Warsaw, Polish capital

TYGODNIK POWSZECHNY, review with Włodzimierz Staniewski, Cracow, Poland,26.06.2011


The diversity of songs, music, props, costumes, languages, movements and choreography, discreet, compositionally balanced animations, traditions, cultures, religions so typical of GARDZIENICE are bonded together with the dynamics and passion ofthe story. Yet an intention to describe the actors and actresses' performance is like the quadraturę of the circle. Their actions reveal the accuracy of the scores, whose logic is accounted for by practicing stage reciprocity, tempo, rhythm, space limitation. One gains the impression of particular compression, condensation of technique, emotion and performance discipline - all factors being impossible to disentangle. One can try to do it through associations: luminosity, harmony, selectivity, vibration, aesthetic monumentalism, ritual hieratic character, organicity, pulsating, stillness, abundance, restraint, purity, hyperbolisation.

 TEATR, by Ireneusz Guszpit, Warsaw, Poland, 11.2011


(…) momentous contemporary themes… such as the most topical — and possibly 'prophetic'— interpretation of the present European crisis.

CULTURE NOW,  Athens, Greece, 28.09. 2011


The dynamic of the historic Gardzienice theatre... one of the best known Polish theatre companies, extends way beyond the limits of its roots.

ATHINORAMA, by Maria Kriou, Athens, Greece, 4.10.11


This work by Staniewski - besides its artistic merit - must at all costs be seen for its historical value.

Ileianna Dimadi (editorial in ATHINORAMA), Athens, Greece, 13.10. 11


… (in Staniewski’s adaptation of the Iphigenia in Tauris) the original theatrical theme marries ancient Greek with eastern European iconography to uncover momentous contemporary issues.

THEATRO, by Vana Papadopoulou, Athens, Greece, 14.10.11


 A polyphony of tempestuous rhythms and relentless energy [shows us].. the world again divided between the 'civilized' and the 'barbarian'

TA NEA, by Daphne Kontodima, Athens, Greece, 14.10.11


The variety of songs, music, props, costumes, languages, movement and choreography, discrete (...) animation, traditions, cultures, religions, is united by the dynamics and fervor of the story. (..) One gets the impression of exceptional compression, condensation of technique, emotion and acting discipline.

There is a scene in the play, in which Staniewski reaches specific apogee of naturalization of ancient stories (...) display of a leader, (...) Staniewski - in cooperation with Euripides – presents poignant theatrical Polish self-portrait.

Ireneusz Guszpit, Teatr 11.2011


 In the play, the plot of which cannot be described in words since it takes the whole body to contemplate it (...), the director shows how close it is from love to death.

Waldemar Sulisz, Dziennik Wschodni, 20.06.2011


The viewer has the impression of looking at the spectacle as at a living organism endowed with consciousness.

Katarzyna Lemańska, portal


Surprising start (...) flickering, elusiveness and - paradoxically - blurring of the montage suggests a global catastrophe. Apocalypse. Coming from the outside but also attacking from the inside - and the meteorite falls and the souls break. (...) Tauride Iphigenia is both beautiful and terrible at the same time. She is the one that the people love, but she also leads them to death.

Tadeusz Kornaś, Didaskalia 11.2011


Euripides had the divine gift of creating mythogenic narratives. (...) Myths and heroes are born of a catastrophe. (...) I see Iphigenia thrown on the 10th April at the Krakowskie Przedmieście street, where the air trembles from Polish eternal cry of "Treason!" And "Under thy care ...". Under the care of the Black Madonna, which Voltaire compares to the Tauride Artemis in his letter to Catherine the Great.

Włodzimierz Staniewski, in the discussion with Grzegorz Nurek; Tygodnik Powszechny, 2011



Author of the performance: Włodzimierz Staniewski – based on "Iphigenia in Tauris" by Euripides

Translation: Jerzy Łanowski

Assistent: Joanna Holcgreber

Costumes: Monika Onoszko

Animations: Krzysztof Dziwny, Marta Pajek, Karol Grabiec

Decorations: Ewa Woźniak

Premiere Cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Dorota Kołodziej, Agnieszka Mendel, Anna Dąbrowska, Martin Quintela, Ivor Houlker, Esztella Levko, Artem Manuilov, Olga Mytnik (piano)

In further casts performed, among others: James Brennan, Emilia Raiter, Paulina Dziuba, Damian Borowiec (piano), Mateusz Malecki, Jan Niemczyk, Olena Yeremenko (violin)Lyubomyr Ishchuk (drums)

Current Cast:  Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber, Marcin Mrowca, Dorota Kołodziej, Anna Dąbrowska, Jan Żórawski, Tetiana Oreshko, Magdalena Pamuła, Kacper Lech, Tomasz Lipka, Aleksandra Zawłocka, Rafał Granat, Maciej Czerniak, graduates of the Academy for Theatre Practices GARDZIENICE

Musicians: Gabriela Żmigrodzka/Karolina Rudaś, Filip Pysz, Adam Lipiński

Lights: Paweł Kieszko

The first presentations: 2010 in the Polski Theatre in Warsaw.




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