Within the framework of the European project Fabulamundi, we propose a semi-staged production by Polish playwright Anna Wakulik.
Semi-staged shows are stage shows without definitive stage sets and costumes, in which the actors have worked all the situations and characters of the entire play, but do not yet have their lines fully memorised.
Anchored by a recurring date –15 August, the feast of the assumption of the Virgin Mary– but jumping around in time and hopping between Warsaw and London, Temps de sega [A Time to Reap] neatly captures a Poland in the midst of huge cultural and social changes.
For Marysia, a young woman growing up in Poland, the church’s influence spreads into every aspect of her life –even controlling her own body. Abortion is almost impossible to access, so when 17-year-old Marysia becomes pregnant by a priest at a Catholic summer camp, she seeks the help of Jan, a gynaecologist who has grown rich performing illegal operations. Marysia knows Jan from the small village where she grew up, and as a child she played with his son, Piotr, who is currently living in London.
A few years later, the 25 -year-old Marysia is pregnant again: the child seems to be Piotr’s. What should the characters do? How is this pregnancy problem going to affect the father-and-son relationship and Marysia and Jan’s? What will Piotr, a student of the London School of Economics, do? Will they be able to somehow live together again? Or maybe there are situations in life when the breaking up is the only solution? Are we responsible only for ourselves? When our freedom ends? And how today’s freedom of moving around the planet changes our relationships? A drama about religion, morality and the search for the roots of our identity.
Segues [A Time to Reap] was sparked by a theatre workshop about the Catholic Church in Poland. About the influence it bears, about its history, about the invisible power of this institution here. I was quite distanced from what came out of the lecturer’s mouth: it was extremely interesting from a theoretical- historical and sociological point of view, but it didn’t interest me in terms of having the characters and story.
So, then I thought: ok, but what if someone believes in God? What if there is a human being who knows the rules of the religion, who was brought up within it, and now needs to do something against it? Someone who sees that life brought up a situation which cannot be solved by simple rules and repeated prayers? Someone who has experienced the power of a love that doesn’t bring joy and peace, but pain and problems instead?
As a result, I wrote a monologue about a pregnant girl trying to cope with her pregnancy. She is in love, but it is a love that is bad for everyone involved: for the child-to-be, for her, for the father of the child, for her partner. She had an affair; she had an abortion years before; she did everything that she shouldn’t do according to the Catholic moral codex. She’s the product of that conflict. And that’s how my character Marysia was born.
Then I thought: Isn’t this the biggest cultural problem in Poland, hypocrisy? This schizophrenic feeling: I should do something other than what I actually would like to do. That’s why my characters are conflicted with others, but also with themselves. The doctor in his 50s cannot make a move: he does and doesn’t want to be involved in his relationship, in his son’s life; his son Piotr wants to be independent, but he is completely dependent on his father’s money. Marysia wants to escape her – as she calls it – pointless small-town life, but she also wants to be close to somebody, which is rather hard for her in the big city. Even there, she looks for someone she knows – the doctor from her hometown.
I tried to find a situation with a high level of dramatic conflict: moral, interpersonal, social vs. individual life, a time-ticking type of conflict. And, thanks to our exceptional Polish abortion law, there it was. My main character is in a love triangle and is pregnant. She’s overwhelmed by the abortion issue: it’s everywhere in public debate around her; she’s in a relationship with a gynaecologist who performs abortions and she loves him and his son.
I think it is a play about responsibilities. Who are we responsible for? Are we responsible for our actions or can we just erase them? Can we decide for someone – e.g. an unborn child – to carry the consequences of our bad decisions? Or is it just life – this is how it was for thousands of years (people were born because their parents had sex) and we just need to cope with it? The act of abortion opens up an ocean of unsolved moral and psychological issues in this play.
The other thing I wanted to talk about was family – in a broad sense. My characters want to be with someone and cannot be with someone. Modern narcissism conflicts with the simple need of having someone to talk to and to touch. But being with someone requires work, compromises, sometimes giving up on our dreams. How does today’s egoism combine with the need to be part of a group?
And the dreams. They are important for my characters. The feeling of having so many “if only” opportunities – if only I wasn’t where I am, if only I wasn’t my parents’ child, if only the country where I live was slightly different… Where do these hopes and aspirations come from? Can the modern human being be described as one who will never reach the point he or she wants to reach but who has ambitions and expectations that previous generations, without such fast spreading of information, didn’t have?
And last but not least: love (laugh, you Modern ironists and cynics if you want to, I don’t care!). I really appreciate a bit of melodrama in a good sense in a play. I like it when I observe the characters and I feel what they feel; I can imagine myself being in their shoes, having the same problem that they have. And at the end of a day, isn’t this the subject that interests us all the most? This includes self-love. And the question of violence and power: aren’t some love relationships based on these (they are, for sure)? How do we define love in modern times? Who loves whom and why? And what can it tell us about the structures we live in?
This work-in-progress is carried out in the context of the Fabulamundi. Playwriting Europe project.
Written by Anna Wakulik Translated by Xavier Farré Directed by Thomas Sauerteig
Cast: Eric Balbàs, Francesc Garrido and Roser Tapias