The experiences from the Expeditions in the eastern regions of Poland, and expecially the material concerning human behaviour and movement, the particularity of walking for a long time, the studies of the body gestures and the positioning of the figures in icons allowed a special form of training to be worked out – the basis The Life of Archpriest Avvakum (1983) - a pictorial analysis of “the soul of Europe” as Włodzimierz Staniewski called it. Work on the spine put together movements and gestures of the “collective body” of the actors. The recreated liturgical songs, sung with the whole body, imposed the construction of the whole in a greater degree than in Sorcery.

The groundwork for the third presentation of <Gardzienice> was the text The Life written by a 17th century Russia unbowed and fanatical religious activist Avvakum Petrovich [1620 – 1682], burned at the stake. The mixture of contrasts and contradictions, of life speech and subtle spirituality, full of declarations of humility towards God, full of mad explosions of hatred and descriptions of half wild customs, together with evidence of real Siberian torment [Avvakum spent a quarter of a century in exile] served Staniewski in building an extraordinary performance. The unending road to penal  servitude became intertwined with scenes of death, massacre, sinful love, rebellion, personal avowal, theological conflict, violent and destructive actions of the crowd, collective joy full of euphoria and prayer, sadness and suffering. It was saturated with an air of fervour, boorishness, violence and hope.

The meaning of Avvakum emerged from the totality of complementary, often opposed activities, gestures, behaviour and song. The text was constructed in a similar way. Staniewski proposed a new method of adapting prose. He achieved a full translation of its content into theatrical language without transferring the history or the events of Avvakum mechanically. He dissolved all the elements into one vocal-mobile totality, creating a complete, compact, artistic picture. The events overlapping each other dynamically turned into episodes of the performance – the torture, crying, prayers, teaching, incitement of rebellion, funeral, motherhood, scenes of cursing, erotic promiscuity, revolts – are linked with the rhythm of the road to penal servitude corresponding to an equal degree to the fragments of Archpriest’s autobiography and to the evidence of Orthodox iconography. Pride and violent behaviour, mixed with servility and humility, anger and hatred, combined with acceptance of suffering and the love of God, uncouthness tangled up with lyrical experience and curses, connected with prayers and blessings, indicated the state of mind of Avvakum, the behaviour of the crowd, the soul of the Eurasian. It was the soul that the performance was all about. It was also about people entangled in the community and dependent on it to such a degree that they were no longer able to differentiate between the collective convictions and theirs. The performance referred also to suffering, to heroism, to the ability of enduring slavery – it is not without reason that it surfaced during the martial law in Poland. Finally it included the idea of searching for ways to measure individual values, of the necessity of finding one’s own personal road.


Direction, text adaptation, dramaturgy of music: Włodzimierz Staniewski 

Costumes: Małgorzata Dżygadło by concept Włodzimierz Staniewski

Present cast: Jadwiga Rodowicz, Anna Zubrzycka, Mariusz Gołaj, Henryk Andruszko, Jan Tabaka, Tomasz Rodowicz.

Guests: Ulrich Hardt, Franz Hodl, Wolfgang Niklaus, Susanne Philhoffer.

Premiere: 1983 in the church of St. Antonio Fonte del Cerro (Molise in Italy) 


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