Rodzina pechowców (The Ill-Fated Family)

drama by Jerzy Krzysztoń published in Polish theatre journal Dialog (7: 1958, pp. 19–46), presenting a grotesque and satirical image of young artists under the influence of existentialism. Grotowski twice adapted and staged this play. His first version was title Bogowie deszczu (Gods of Rain) and had its premiere at Kraków’s Teatr Kameralny on 4 July 1958. Stageplay and direction: Jerzy Grotowski; Stage design: Lilianna Jankowska and Antoni Tośta. Movement: Zofia Więcławówna. Musical montage: Jerzy Koszycki. Cast: Roma Próchnicka (Marta), Zofia Więcławówna (Zuzi), Leszek Herdegen (Hubert), Tadeusz Śliwiak (Andrzej), also featuring the voices of Maria Ciesielska, Halina Gryglaszewska, Maria Kościałkowska, Stanisław Grodkowski and Zdzisław Zazula. The director subjected the text to a far-reaching reworking, noting in the programme that Vseveold Meyerhold’s approach to texts was his source of inspiration. As a result of these procedures, the original studio psychological conversation piece was transformed into an almost journalistic morality play about current aesthetic trends. The director employed methods from constructivist theatre, dividing the performance space into ‘fields’ of significance (the central field was dedicated to the presentation of Krzysztoń’s play, while at either side there were spaces for ‘analysis of a problem’ and ‘towers of yearning’), employing also a variety of acting conventions (the actors in the side stages performed in masks), while also introducing fragments of other works into the text (including the poetry of Andrzej Bursa and Tadeusz Różewicz, as well as Hamlet’s monologue from Shakespeare’s tragedy). This performance did not, however, earn critical acclaim, while Grotowski himself was not satisfied with it. A few months later, Grotowski presented a second original adaptation of Rodzina pechowców, staged by the Theatre of 13 Rows in Opole (premiere 8 November 1958). Stage play and direction: Jerzy Grotowski. Assistant director: Stanisława Łopuszańska. Stage design: Julitta Fedorowicz. Cast: Stanisława Łopuszańska (Marta), Barbara Gruzińska (Zuzi), Władysław Madej (Hubert), Adam Kurczyna (Andrzej) and Józef Wyszyński (Time).

The performance, this time under the title of Pechowcy (The Ill-Fated), juxtaposed the banally ‘existentialist’ story presented by Krzysztoń not with poetic disquiet and the search for ‘the right to existence’ as such, but rather with the political situation of the moment. Each act began with a description of the methods of torture noted in the memoirs of an Algerian journalist, while during the performance a speaker in an emotionless voice relayed shockingly contrasting items from current world news (this was most probably intended to demonstrate the insignificance and irrelevance of the supposedly dramatic experiences and sufferings of the protagonists). By employing conventions and approaches from varying traditions and genres (alongside the use of documentary and media materials the piece featured the allegorical-morality figure of Time), Grotowski unequivocally unmasked the poverty and cowardice of the then-fashionable existentialism of the salons, to which Grotowski was radically opposed. Grotowski expressed his views and opinions which had provided the inspiration for both versions of Rodzina pechowców in a critical report from Paris (‘Pieszczochy: Korespondencja własna z Paryża’ [Darlings: Personal correspondence from Paris], Ekran, 3: 1958, 18 January, p. 7), with these views also forming a fixed foundation for his theatrical programme of the time. His anti-existentialist attitude was also present in his adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus.


Zbigniew Osiński: Grotowski i jego Laboratorium, Warszawa 1980, s. 42–47.

Joanna Targoń, Don Kichot w okularkach dla krótkowidzów, „Gazeta Wyborcza – Kraków” z 20 marca 2009, protokół dostępu do wersji elektronicznej: http://krakow.gazeta.pl/krakow/1,35796,6406335,Don_Kichot_w_okularkach_dla_krotkowidzow.html

Joanna Targoń: Wokół Jurka zawsze cos się działo. Rozmowa z Romaną Próchnicką, „Gazeta Wyborcza – Kraków” z 20 marca 2009, protokół dostępu do wersji elektronicznej: http://krakow.gazeta.pl/krakow/1,35796,6406325,Wokol_Jurka_zawsze_sie_cos_dzialo.html