Croatian hit in declining PRL, or what Shakespeare has for the Balkans
The exhibition by Boris Bućan, presented in the historic cellars of the ICC, featured a poster for the performance of Ivo Brešan A ceremonial banquet at a funeral home, staged in 1982 on the stage of the Croatian National Theater in Split.

The play was translated into Polish by Stanisław Kaszyński, a longtime professor at the University of Łódź, and an outstanding theater scientist. At the end of the 1950s, Kaszyński taught Polish at the University of Belgrade for three years. It is thanks to him that Ivo Brešan became such a well-known Yugoslav author in Poland. However, it was not this performance that made him popular in our country. In 1971, Brešan wrote a Hamlet Performance in the village of Głucha Dolna, which was staged in Poland for the first time four years later at the Lubuski Theater in Zielona Góra, becoming a real hit on our stages. Over the next six years, until 1981, there were as many as twelve premieres, among others on the stages of Szczecin, Warsaw, Łódź, Gdańsk, Elbląg, Kalisz, Olsztyn and Kraków. Only the first performance in Zielona Góra (played 62 times) was watched by over 16,000 people.

The Croatian play was most popularized by Olga Lipińska, who made its TV version in 1985 (aired only in 1987) with an excellent cast - with Janusz Gajos, Stanisława Celińska, Janusz Rewiński, Jerzy Turek, Adam Ferency and Sylwester Maciejewski. The performance was included in the elite collection of productions - the Golden Hundred of the Television Theater. I remember very well the laughter of the audience filling the hall of the Provincial Cultural Center in Przemyśl, when, as a high school student, I had the opportunity to watch the Performance as part of the Przemyska Theater Spring (an annual festival - a review of the best theaters from all over Poland) in the late 1970s.

Why is Brešan's art so popular in the People's Republic of Poland? Mainly due to the political message smuggled under the guise of grotesque content. For people living in the realities of practical communism of those years and accustomed to "chronic dualism", that is, a kind of torn existence between the unofficial private sphere and the official correct - the only systemically correct reality - the allusions were all too clear. For this reason, the premiere of a Hamlet Production in the village of Głucha Dolna at the Warsaw Theater in Wola in 1976 became not only an artistic event, but above all a social and political sensation. Especially since the role of Mata Bukarica - a party man and a nasty creature - was played by Tadeusz Łomnicki, director of the theater, one of the most outstanding Polish actors, but also a very attentive member of the PZPR. 

What's the thing? The action of the play takes place in a production cooperative in a sunken village, but with its own local apparatus of party power. The cooperative collective, led by the ambitious and despotic Bukarica, decides to stage a theatrical performance - Hamlet by William Shakespeare in an adaptation of the local teacher Škunca, which is to adapt the Shakespearean version to the intellectual level of the inhabitants of the village of Dalmatian Zagórze. This causes a number of complications and a change of action that begins to resemble the plot of the English prototype. 

Ivo Brešan was born in 1936. He graduated from Slavic studies at the University of Zagreb. For years he worked as a teacher in a gymnasium in Šibenik. In addition to theater dramas, he has also written film and TV scripts as well as numerous novels. He passed away three years ago at the age of 81.

Although his other plays have also been staged in Polish theaters, none of them beat the extraordinary success of the Hamlet Performance in the village of Głucha Dolna.

Boris Bućan, poster for the play Festive banquet at the funeral home, 1982

Ivo Brešan

The exhibition Boris Bućan. Posters can be visited free of charge until August 16th in the medieval cellars of the International Cultural Center.

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