The British Grotowski project - a reevaluation.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of Arts


Polish director Jerzy Grotowski's contribution to world theatre is widely acknowledged. He has a central position in Britain in theatre studies and a still vital influence on theatre-making, especially devising and actor training in what is loosely termed Physical Theatre. However, teachers, students, academics and practitioners interested in this work both theoretically and practically, struggle with a lack of precise knowledge and access to primary sources, key texts, and good translations of his main treatises, as well as clearly articulated and accessible documents of and reflections on his practices. There is also no systematic analysis of his influence on British theatre-making and university drama studies since 1965 and his initial work with Peter Brook at the RSC. This project will address these knowledge gaps through creating:

- a Critical Edition with an accompanying DVD of images, film and audio extracts;
- online materials that will reveal the range of influences Grotowski has had on artists, teachers, and producers in Britain, whilst providing access to and information about useful Grotowski-related resources;
- a multi-modal international conference for practitioners and academics in 2009, the 'Year of Grotowski'.

Through generating and disseminating materials in this range of modes and through a focussed studentship on Grotowski's legacy in Britain, the project will thus evaluate and clarify the nature of Grotowski's ongoing contribution to theatre studies and performance in Britain today, and his role in the development of Physical Theatre in Britain, both direct and indirect. Through revisiting and interrogating again Grotowski's life-work and legacy, the project will attempt to address two broad areas: the role of craft in acting and theatre-making, as well as what 'theatre's essence' is (Eugenio Barba, TDR, Fall 2002). Both were central concerns that preoccupied Grotowski throughout his working life and that, with the current shift to performance, we need to continually ask of the theatre.


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Description The AHRC-funded British Grotowski Project ran from September 2006 to September 2009. It re-evaluated the work of Polish theatre practitioner Jerzy Grotowski and his influence on British theatre especially. Grotowski's reception has for decades been hampered by a dearth of textual and audio-visual materials, misconceptions about his oeuvre, and limited access in the UK to his 'living tradition'. The project enabled direct experience of previously unknown aspects of Grotowski's oeuvre and which are part of the 'living tradition' of ongoing practical 'Grotowskian' research. As a result it reassessed how non-Polish speaking scholars and artists might understand his work. Its methodologies involved traditional scholarly research and publications (foregrounding historical, polylingual and editorial approaches) as well as practice as research. It included an AHRC-funded PhD student and a Research Assistant, Dr Giuliano Campo.

The project research brought Grotowski to theatre practitioners and scholars through several discoveries:

• It demonstrated the wider range of his influence, in Europe and Poland especially, which previously have been presented mostly through four books in English: Grotowski (1968), Kumiega (1985), Richards (1995), Schechner/Wolford (1997).

• It brought into the public domain new European perspectives, practices and audio-visual materials including translations from Polish, French and Italian.

• The screening of the subtitled Constant Prince film (with contextualising symposium and exhibition of scenographer Gurawski's sketches) showed his performance aesthetic and the evolution of visual ideas for The Constant Prince; this was elaborated in the touring exhibition

In addition, the research:

• challenged and realigned familiar constructions of Grotowski's oeuvre in what are normally considered separate phases of activity, and articulated the continuity in Grotowski's own processes.

• challenged misconceptions of Grotowski as an authoritarian director. The project's focus on collaborators and literary manager Flaszen and performer/teacher Molik helped dismantle these.

• highlighted the significance of text and dramaturgy in Grotowski's work. Allain's edited publication of Flaszen's collected writings revealed the complexity of the poetic language and dramaturgy being used in Grotowski's performances, which is usually ignored by non Polish-speaking critics. Similarly, the Molik book focussed on the richness of Grotowski's voice work.
Exploitation Route This twofold in relation to cultural understanding and theatre practice through:

• the enhancement of theatre skills, primarily in the area of actor training

• the development of new and more embodied understanding within the theatre profession of Jerzy Grotowski's oeuvre and contribution.
Sectors Creative Economy