03 Apr Outstanding “Blood on the Cat’s Neck” by Fassbinder. Alien writes an eyewitness account from Bydgoszcz
23rd March 2016, at 1am
“Blood on the Cat’s Neck or Marilyn Monroe vs. the Vampires” (photo by Monika Stolarska)
The title itself “Blood on the Cat’s Neck or Marilyn Monroe vs. the Vampires” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder promises that this is not a typical play. With every minute of the play directed by Anja Suša in the Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz it is drawn into the logic of the absurd. And violence.
It begins as a typical section of the political theater, a belated echo of a counterculture. The protagonists speak in the following order: the Soldier, the Policeman, the Teacher – guarantors of the order, gears of the social discipline machinery. There is also the Lover – the titan of love, which here also embodies the oppressive regime.
However, we concentrate very quickly to other aspects. Actors and actresses of the Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz in the first scene form a gigantic organism, where drama characters suddenly move from one actor to another. They embody all other roles until achieving apparently complete chaos – though skilfully orchestrated.
They talk to an invisible person: Phoebe Zeitgeist, alien, that comes from “some other planet”, with the task to write “an eyewitness account on human democracy”. She is having difficulties with understanding the human language. Initially invisible, she confronts physical and emotional violence. She gets lost in the relations of power and the brutal sexual or economic dependence. Black slapstick generates commonplace common situations, e.g. marital arguments, which often end up in mutual shooting from rifles.
“Blood…” certainly would not be so great, if it were not for the actors of the theater in Bydgoszcz. Anita Sokolovska, Małgorzata Witkowska, Małgorzata Trofimiuk, Martyna Peszko, Beata Bandurska, Maciej Pesta, Konrad Wosik and Jakub Ulewicz make a perfectly tuned orchestra of absurd, performing misses, punches, and gags so convincingly and accurately, as it’s Bach Concert.
Fassbinder, German revolutionary director (1945-82), is known in Poland for his filmmaking. Meanwhile, towards the end of the sixties, he became an actor and a director of the Munich so-called Antitheater, which drew inspiration from both the leftist Brecht’s dramaturgy and Warhol’s performance. Many Fassbinder’s radical films were initially created as theater plays, although the director used other texts as well, as in “Querelle” – homosexual criminal melodrama adapted from Genet.
Insane situation cabaret
First staging of the “Blood…” play in Poland, written in 1971, was enabled by the director, Anja Suša, from Belgrade (who often works in the Scandinavian countries) and the playwright, Agnieszka Jakimiak, who as the author of essays and film connoisseur, specialized in the field of Fassbinder’s work. The excellent translation was done by Iwona Nowacka.
In the premiere from Bydgoszcz, the most important is not what is being said, but above all how it is said. And what is being done on the stage? Full freedom of theatrical imagination, acting perfection and completed form make “Blood on the Cat’s Neck” one of the most interesting and most original Polish performances in recent years. This is not a theater with a thesis – this is more likely an insane situation cabaret and playing with the form.
Obscene or drastic scenes typical of Fassbinder’s filmmaking are here transformed into a kind of the stage convention ridicule. Not only of the petty bourgeois theater but also of the “avant-garde” and “experiments”, constantly revived and sold through theatrical marketing. While in the psychological theater, we are under the pressure of sentimental clichés, in the clashes of these grotesque living marionettes something worrying and attractive suddenly appears.
Last but not least, Suša’s play extraordinarily involved the work of amateurs. They are the ones who accept the perspective of Phoebe, the alien, creating a general picture of the stage chaos. At the end of the play, in rare moments, they have the opportunity to say something in their own voice, and thus determine their role in the play.