In 1977, the Gardzienice Theatre Association, an experimental theatre company was founded in a tiny Polish village. By 1992 The Observer was hailing "Brilliant Gardzienice...and orgy of joy, anguish, prayer and lamentation performed in candlelight with hurtling energy and at breakneck speed...Physically reckless, thrillingly well sung...On no account to be missed. " Today the Gardzienice Theatre Association is hailed as Poland's leading theatre group, training Royal Shakespeare Company actors and touring the world. Paul Allain describes and analyses their sung performances, strenuous physical and vocal training, and anthropological fieldwork amongst marginalized European minorities.
This is one of the first detailed attempts to assess developments in Polish experimental theatres since 1989. The author questions whether those artists can maintain their vision in the face of Poland's economic difficulties and increased commercialization of the arts.
Paul Allain is a lecturer in Drama and Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As a movement director he has collaborated with Katie Mitchell for many years and has trained actors at the Royal Shakespeare and Royal National Theatre companies for productions including The Dybbuk, Ghosts, Rutherford and Sons, The Machine-Wreckers and Henry IV Part 3. His own company, Bodywork, had its première at Sadler's Wells' Mosaics Festival in 1996. Dr Allain is co-editor with Professor Vera Gottlieb of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Chekhov.
"Paul Allain is both an academic and a practitioner. This is a rare combination, and in writing about the Gardzienice Theatre Association he provides a sharp critical analysis with an insider's understanding of what it is to make theatre. As a director, I have been inspired by Gardzienice and welcome this illuminating account of their work. I am sure this book will inspire many others."
"Allain successfully evokes the intensity of these producitons....[A] well-researched and authoritatively written study of a fascinating theatrical phenomenon."
"A much needed in-depth study of one of the world's most important experimental and community-based performance groups. Allain situates Gardzienice both as part of Poland and as part of world theatre. Even as he tells Gardzienice's history and practices, he relates the work to contemporary performance theory and the intercultural performance movement."