A stage adaptation of one of the most renowned novels by J.M. Coetzee, the recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature and two-time winner of the Booker Prize. The plot is set in South Africa. The ‘disgrace’ of the title can be interpreted as the situation in South Africa soon after the fall of apartheid, or the status of a professor expelled from a university for sexual abuse, or an imminent human weakness.Coetzee combines historical, social, ethical and existential themes intriguingly and directly, yet with restraint. Using these themes, the creators of the performance are focusing on questions of responsibility and empathy, of ethical and imaginary boundaries and limitations.
The play takes us into a postapocalyptic world: after the apocalypse of apartheid, communism, capitalism, terrorism and the 21st century; a world of Mad Max, of maximum and confusion; a country at war, beyond good and evil, where all traditional divides have collapsed, where there is no state or authority or institutions to protect its people. A country where everything must be done anew, where it is necessary tore-establish from chaos the law and a concept of peace, to invent new rules of living side by side and new principles of economy. A country where both conflicted sides can co-exist.
This is the world where a man of the old order, professor of literature David Lurie, rises to acknowledging his culpability. Fate throws him into a warzone, unstable and borderline, where in the face of chaos, of others and his old self, he has to reconstruct himself and accept a new emerging order.
In this sense, Disgrace resonates as a story about a time of transformation and the ensuing chaos, about a place where the old meets the new, about disgraceful conflict between the familiar and the other. It resonates with Polish people as a tale of exploitation, a history of cultural slavery and one-way violence, revolving around a clearly distinguishable axis of conflict. An axis of inequality between men and women, between white and ethnically diverse, between rich and the poor, between urban and rural, between people and animals. By experiencing disgrace, the characters rise to compassion and basic comprehension. The space of emerging empathy, the horizon of understanding is where you can find a suggestion of hope.
Maciej Podstawny was born in 1978. He studied law and philosophy and made his theatre debut quite late, at the age of 30. He decided to study theatre direction having seen several performances directed by Krystian Lupa at the Old Theatre in Krakow. Heemphasises that meeting the director of Wymazywanie was one of his most fundamental experiences in theatre school.
Podstawny has, nonetheless, taken a different path to Lupa. His language features an abstract sense of humour and lightness. He works simultaneously on multiple planes using bizarre visuality.These create a melancholic ambience in his performances and express philosophical reflection on social phenomena. Podstawny talks about the compromise of nonconformism, our entanglement in the world of consumption and our inability to rebel (Skowyt). He depicts reality in the face of crisis, and even the end of the world (Ocalenie). Podstawny often makes references to contemporary Poland (Jasiu albo Polish joke) using parables or analogies borrowed from other cultural areas. InKu Klux Klanhefocusedon the threat of racism, in Moby Dickon thebirth of dictatorship and in Lord Jim he proposed a critical revision of the novel’sreception in Poland. He calls himself ‘a whistle blower’,stating that the mission of art is to send out ‘civic denunciations on reality’. He says:
The mass media are politically involved, so they don’t provide a credible description of the world.But artists havethe opportunity to do so, providedthey communicate in spite of divisions. ... This can be difficult in a country where there’s a false alternative: ‘Are you with us or with them?’ But nobody said that the situation of an artist must be comfortable.
Since his debut ten years ago, Podstawn yhas become both a valued theatre creator and a mentor to a new generation of theatre directors. Between 2015 and 2018, he was the artistic director of the Dramatic Theatre in Wałbrzych. The latter is one of the most interesting theatre ‘hubs’ in Poland, where a whole generation of younger directors have made their debuts, including award-winners Jakub Skrzywanek and Aneta Groszyńska. Podstawny is also a teacher at the Kraków Academy of Theatre Arts (since 2010), where he is a member of the younger faculty with Michał Borucz and Iga Gańczarczyk, among others.