The Chairs

Photo by Adam Drozdowskia production based on the tragic farce by Eugène Ionesco, translated into Polish by Maria Bechczyc-Rudnicka and Konrad Eberhardt, co-directed at the Theatre of Poetry (now the Chamber Stage of the Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Kraków) by Aleksandra Mianowska and Jerzy Grotowski (Grotowski’s debut as a theatre director). The Chairs opened on 29 June 1957. Directed by Jerzy Grotowski and Aleksandra Mianowska; stage design by Wojciech Krakowski; music by Adam Kaczyński. Performers: Jerzy Nowak (Old Man), Halina Gallowa (Old Woman), Jerzy Sopoćko (Orator).

The directors focused on the play’s existential themes stressing its serious side. Reviewers praised the suspenseful, natural and physically demanding acting, especially the dialogues between the Old Man, the Old Woman and the fictional guests: the Colonel, the Grand Ladies, the Grand Gentlemen, the Emperor, and the speeches of the Old Man and the Orator. The actors performed among chairs and used the auditorium as an extension of the stage. The expressive lighting and the disquieting, mysterious music reflected the twists and turns of the plot. In retrospect, Grotowski considered meeting Halina Gallowa as the most valuable experience while working on The Chairs. The production had a run of thirty-nine performances. Despite generally favourable reviews (except for criticism of the directors’ foregrounding of the tragic to the detriment of the comic and the farcical in Ionesco’s work), the play was not successful with audiences, which reviewers attributed to the audiences’ unfamiliarity with contemporary drama. After the opening of The Chairs, Grotowski’s involvement with the theatre became more extensive.


Flaszen Ludwik, The Flop, or About the Need of Joy, in Flaszen Ludwik, Grotowski & Company, translated by Andrzej Wojtasik, edited by Paul Allain with the assistance of Monika Blige and with a tribute by Eugenio Barba, Holstebro – Malta – Wrocław – London – New York: Icarus Publishing Enterprise, 2010, p. 45–49.