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Toruń as capital of theatre

The 28th International Theatre Festival Kontact in Toruń will begin on 31 May. Until 7 June, it will feature 13 titles, including five foreign performances, for a total of 19 screenings. Among the most important invited directors are Robert Wilson, Alvis Hermanis, Oliver Frljić, Aurélien Bory and Luk Perceval.

The International Theater Festival Kontakt, hosted by the Wilam Horzyca Theater since 1991, stands as Poland’s most venerable international theater festival. Established by Krystyna Meissner, whose pioneering efforts were honored with the Polityka’s Passport award, the festival has welcomed theater companies from more than 30 countries to its stage. In the post-Iron Curtain era, Kontakt has served as a crucial bridge, fostering multinational dialogues and merging Eastern and Western theatrical traditions.

The festival will open with the performance Transformation (Lithuania) - based on Franz Kafka's short story - which was directed by Oliver Frljić - known to Polish audiences from the famous Curse at Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw. The story of a man turned into an insect poses the question about the limits of our compassion. How and when do we stop seeing the human being in the Other?

One of the stars of the festival will be the American director Robert Wilson - a leading figure of the theatrical avant-garde of the 20th century. In Dorian (Lithuania/Germany), based on motifs from the life and work of Oscar Wilde, Wilson masterfully unfolds a fascinating stream of images and takes us on an incredible journey exploring the complex relationship between artists and their works.

A visually beautiful production is Invisibili (France/Italy), directed by Aurélien Bory. The show was inspired by a 15th-century fresco entitled Triumph of Death, in which the director saw a key to exploring contemporary anxieties. A replica was made for the performance on a giant canvas, with four dancers and a singer faithfully recreating the characters in the painting.

Also coming to Kontakt will be Alvis Hermanis - a multiple winner of the Kontakt Festival. This time he will present Land of the Deaf (Latvia), a romantic thriller about the friendship between two women: a deaf dancer Jaja and Rita, who works for the Russian mafia. The last foreign performance at the festival will be Public Enemies (Czech Republic), directed by Jan Mikulášek. The performance is based on the correspondence of writer Michel Houellebecq with the l philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy. Their divergent worldviews, like highly flammable substances, are just waiting for a spark to ignite a fire.

At the Festival, audiences will also see a production by the eminent Belgian director Luk Perceval. One Long Day (Helena Modrzejewska National Old Theatre in Krakow) is the author's version of O'Neill's drama, interpreted through the prism of contemporary issues of addiction.

For another production hosted by Contact, Jak nie zabiłem swojego ojca i jak bardzo tego żałuję (co-production of Stefan Żeromski Theatre in Kielce and Łaźnia Nowa Theatre in Kraków), director Mateusz Pakuła was nominated for Polityka's Passports 2023. It is a personal story about the process of his father's dying, but also a story of helplessness and rage at the institutions of the state, the health service and the Church, which inflict additional suffering on the sick.

Anxiety Comes at Dusk (Henryk Tomaszewski Wrocław Pantomime Theatre) directed by Małgorzata Wdowik is a visual story about the experience of loss and its deposition in the body and imagination. Łukasz Twarkowski, known to Torun audiences from his performance Lokis (2018), will show The Employees (STUDIO teatrgaleria in Warsaw). Employees of the spaceship 6000, under the watchful eye of a mysterious Organisation, explore a distant planet. Who among them is human and who is a human-like humanoid?

Audiences will also head next door to Bydgoszcz to see a play about the twilight of the dictatorship of the Romanian leaders, The Last Days of Elena and Nicolae Ceaușescu (Hieronim Konieczka Polish Theatre), directed by Wojciech Faruga. The Festival will also present the hosts. The intimate Zapleczu Stage will feature performances by the Horzyca Theatre: Dropie [Roads] directed by Marcin Liber, Dzikie palmy [Wild Palms] directed by Aleksandra Bielewicz (co-production with the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy in Warsaw), and Jeden i Jedna [One and the Same] under the artistic supervision of Łukasz Czuj.

Accompanying events will include concerts by the bands Nagrobki (in the courtyard of the Town Hall) and Hańba! (on the big stage of the Horzyca Theatre) and Silent Disco in the festival club (Wejściówka). In addition, the CKK Jordanki will host a fair of multimedia technologies used in contemporary theatre and cultural institutions. Exhibitors will present the latest technological developments which are revolutionising the perception of modern forms of expression in culture.

fot. photo: D.Matviejev