Komuna Otwock: “Perechodnik/Bauman”


The performance, whose main topic is fear, was made as a result of the parallel reading of two books: Am I a Murderer? by Calel Perechodnik and Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman. Perechodnik’s diary, which was found after the war, is a confession by a Jew from Otwock, who during the Second World War first worked as a policeman in the ghetto and then – during the extermination of the ten-thousand strong Jewish population of Otwock saw his beloved wife and daughter off, so they could be taken to Treblinka. This story was juxtaposed with Bauman’s deliberations, according to which the Holocaust was made possible by the methods of planning, management and administration which are the foundation of modern civilization. In the laboratory-like concentration camps, it was tested how far the mechanisms of the omnipresent bureaucratic rule can get in controlling, managing, mechanizing and ordering about every individual in order to reach the objectives of the system. Bauman also states that when placed in a situation in which there is no good choice, most people give up their moral duty in favour of saving themselves.
But the most important message of the performance is a perverse praise of our times and dispelling the illusion that history is heading towards some good solutions. One must not look for a perfect society, but secure what we have in the shape in which it exists, with all its imperfections. The story is told by means of a dynamic, strongly rhythmicised and precise choreography and illustrated with live music.
Music: Julia Kubica and Mariusz Szupla Szuplewski


In the formal sphere the Otwock Commune uses sparing means: a simplified scenography, black and white colours, the minimum of words, simple gestures, the sound of plates being broken and cardboard falling: is the truth being revealed not only about the past but also about our times? So much has already been said about the Holocaust. Richard Rorty’s Pragmatism, Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt, and finally Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman recur in the spectacle (…) like an echo.
Referring to Perechodnik’s biography (1916-1944), the Otwock Commune shows crime as something common and occurring on a mass scale. The actors operate using movement, symbols, and the continuous minimisation of expression: we see on the stage how a rabbi is being abused and mentally broken the executioners. Some people hide in wardrobes, others look inside the wardrobes, some eat bananas and sausages, others eat potatoes. They swap roles, the executioners change places with the victims, they take over their recitations from each other like a baton. The same happens with the sequence of movements, the permutation of words and the artistry of falling silent. This is because the Commune is recounting something which in fact can never be told and is masterfully giving shape to the tension. They join those who react to Celan’s calling “You should say it as well.” The actors underline, however, that the spectacle is a “perverse praise of our present times.” Of the fact that we do not have to make inhuman choices. Of the fact that the closest war is fought a few hundred kilometers from here.”
When the audience take their places, it is on them that the floodlights are directed. At first I did not notice this, but then I felt more and more blinded. Finally the lights were dimmed. Slogans saying “ This is so that you get scared” appear on two screens. Yes, it seems true! In those times it was them – the Jews. Now it’s us – the audience. The play begins. It is a play on words, on associations, on refreshing our memories and refreshing the theories about Shoah.

Finally : the play is about refreshing the story of Calel Perechodnik, a Jew, who after the ghetto was set up in Otwock joined the Jewish police. He believed his family would not be relocated. That was a mistake. He died in 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising. Eleven years ago his diary entitled Am I a Murderer? was published. The title of the diary corresponds with one of the play’s recurring phrases which the people in the audience remember best after leaving the theatre: “Is it easy to be a son of a bitch?” The Commune gives a simple answer: “Yes, it is very easy.” And they offer a warning: “protect me from who I may become.” The category of social change returns, of the individual ability to be sure of one’s self. It is difficult not to think of what Bauman said in Modernity and the Holocaust that the most frightening information introduced by the Holocaust (…) is not the presumption that this could also happen to us, but that we could also be its perpetrators. The Otwock Commune makes a comment on their spectacle: “This is to dispel the illusion that history is heading in a good direction. We are always on the verge of a downfall. Petty crime, everyday cheating and moderate exploitation is the best that happens to humanity.” Their statement is reminiscent of what Elie Wiesel said: “Nobody has learned anything. Auschwitz did not serve as a warning. You can find the details in your daily papers.”
• Joanna Roszak, Topos, 2004

The theatrical performances of this group have quality, their works are well thought out, brilliantly composed and stand out in their precise using of shape, rhythmicality, and very high execution of the performance – obviously in their own style, because theirs is a very specific kind of acting. Their eagerness in their criticism of society is convincing and engaging. In my opinion the best and most moving spectacle put on by the Otwock Commune is Perechodnik/Bauman. (…) suddenly the kind of language this group is using coincided with the topic and turned out that the subject of Shoah is best raised or summarized by the seemingly unemotional language of space, composition or rhythmisation. Without hysterics, without psychological analyses, without all of these emotional strata. Their cool, uncompromising analysis works in this performance with incredible force.”
• Leszek Kolankiewicz, Krytyka Polityczna, Przewodnik po Komunie Otwock/Guidebook to the Otwock Commune/, 2009

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