Returning to Reims

Didier Eribon

Katarzyna Kalwat

Beniamin Bukowski

Katarzyna Kalwat

Wojciech Blecharz, Piotr Pacześniak

Antoni Grałek

Piotr Pacześniak

Piotr Waldemar Zajączkowski

Anna Rogóż

Agnieszka Kryst

Anna Rogóż, Natálie Rajnišová

Natálie Rajnišová, Anna Rogóż, Piotr Pacześniak

Katarzyna Białooka


Based on Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon (© Éditions Fayard, France), translated into Polish by Maryna Ochab (© Maryna Ochab)

Jacek Poniedziałek, Jaśmina Polak, Yacine Zmit

9 December 2020

RETURNING TO REIMS The production is based on the well-known book by French sociologist Didier Eribon. It follows the life story of the author, who was born into a working-class family in Reims but later went to Paris, came out as a gay man and moved up the social ladder, but never stopped being somewhat ashamed of his working-class background. After his father’s death, he returns to his hometown and the environment where he grew up. Returning to Reims is conceived as a personal confession and reckoning. Jacek Poniedziałek portrays the role of Didier Eribon. The actor made a similar journey – from Krakow’s Olsza II housing estate to Warsaw. The symbolic meeting of these two men on stage reveals the universal nature of social advancement mechanisms, as they have developed in Europe over the past decades. In Poland, it was partly shaped by the experience of the generation that lived during the transition of the political regimes. Have we overcome our class history? Or does the Polish society still hide its identity in a closet for fear of exclusion?

An insightful and painful attempt to deal with all the shortcomings and weaknesses of the intellectual elites, who, fascinated only by themselves (...) cannot go beyond the exalted display of their own existence. The mechanisms of exclusion, social humiliation and violence are put in the context of philosophical, social and political conditions that are gradually revealed in the production and provide an intriguing look at our current reality, both the one we grew up from and the one we aspire to.

– WIESŁAW KOWALSKI, Teatr dla Wszystkich

Jacek Poniedziałek as Didier Eribon – a world-famous professor of sociology and a homosexual who is returning to the suburbs of the titular Reims to settle accounts with the past in which reading books was something strange and homophobia was commonplace – also narrates his own story. In his outstanding performance, Poniedziałek goes from introversion through muffled screams to verbal tirades, through which he seeks to soothe his pain. Director Katarzyna Kalwat and playwright Beniamin Bukowski deliberately use the humorous stereotypes of a TV talk show, exposing the hypocrisy of high society that ‘tolerates’ minorities on its own terms. The production uncovers the pain we can cause by our language.


KATARZYNA KALWAT She is a theatre director and an author of interdisciplinary productions. She studied psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and directing at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw. She has received many awards, including O!Lśnienia 2021 – Cultural Award of Onet and the City of Krakow. She attended numerous workshops, for example at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg and Volksbühne in Berlin. In her recent works, she reflects on the relationship between language and reality, exploring in particular the possibilities of studying a language and learning its limitations and performative potential.

TEATR ŁAŹNIA NOWA An agile Krakow theatre located in redeveloped post-industrial workshops of the communist Mechanical School Complex in Nowa Huta. In the eighteen years of its existence, it has become a recognised brand in Polish theatre. The theatre has initiated a number of popular festivals, such as the Genius Loci Festival, Boska komedia and the Mrozek Festival. Łaźnia Nowa does not have a permanent ensemble but invites collaborating actors and directors to its productions. Both established and emerging theatre artists find there excellent conditions for their creative work. The artists who staged their productions in the theatre include Michał Borczuch, Giovanny Castellanos, Łukasz Czuj, Iga Gańczarczyk, Paweł Kamza, Marcin Liber, Krystian Lupa, Paweł Passini, Yana Ross, Wiktor Rubin, Monika Strzępka, Marcin Wierzchowski, Paweł Świątek, Weronika Szczawińska, Ivan Vyrypajev and Michał Zadara. Over a hundred productions have been created for the theatre since 2005, some of which were successfully presented at theatre festivals in Poland and abroad, e.g. in Berlin, Madrid, Mexico City, New York and Singapore. Łaźnia Nowa provides exceptional premises (two stages with auditoria capacity of several hundred seats and a large foyer), which attract outstanding European productions. The audience regularly returns here for its wide range of artistic events, where theatre meets literature, film, music, dance and visual arts.

NOWY TEATR Nowy Teatr was founded in Warsaw in 2008, with Krzysztof Warlikowski as its artistic leader, and a group of his long-term colleagues. For the first four and a half years it had no permanent seat, operating according to the formula of an interdisciplinary cultural centre. It has produced e.g. Krzysztof Warlikowski’s productions ((A)pollonia, End, African Tales by Shakespeare and Kabaret Warszawski), coproduced Warlikowski’s Streetcar together with Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris, and organised a number of lectures, concerts, and exhibitions. Since 2012 Nowy Teatr has occupied the building formerly used as the headquarter of the Municipal Waste Disposal facility in Warsaw. The 1927 workshop, recently added to the register of historical monuments, accommodates a mobile auditorium with 450 seats, a stage and theatre facilities. Nowy Teatr is not just about giving performances but creating dialogues and initiating conversations about even the most uneasy subjects. It is a place in which to broaden the artistic battlefield.