Work - Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes (also known as Lovelies and Dowdies)
Premiere: 4.05.1973, Krzysztofory Gallery, Kraków.
The staging of Witkacy’s play realised Kantor’s idea of Impossible Theatre. Its staging was connected to the crisis of the conventional theatre space brought by neo-avant garde, or rather by the duplication of its findings by copycats, also in dramatic (institutional) theatres. After happening experiences, theatre became for Kantor a place ruled by illusion. He claimed that to remain faithful to the avant garde imperative of constant development in art we must take risks, make choices, look for new, unknown and impossible ways of action, born from a new and ruling idea. In Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes the audience were not let into the theatre. The entire play took place in the specially constructed Cloak Room – a place of the lowest rank. Built from Kantor’s project it resembled a giant cage with hooks and hangers. It was taken over by two authoritative Cloakroom Managers - transvestites. They treated all incomers quite roughly, poking them and shoving them. They constantly reminded the audience of their first duty, which was to leave their coats in the cloakroom. The Cloakroom became a giant bio-object (the name itself will first appear in the Theatre Place essay in 1980).
The audience members were not let inside the room, closed off by a doors with a sign ‘Theatre Entrance’. The audience was put between that entrance and the Cloakroom. Behind the doors the play was supposed to be taking place. The actors came from the door, saying only fragments of Witkacy’s play. The audience members were deprived of the safe, conventional role of a passive observer. Some of them were forced to wear fake beards and costumes and as the Choir of 40 Mandelbaums they were included in the narrative (in Iran that role was played by the bodyguards of Empress Farah Diba). In Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes, apart from the Cloakroom other bio-objects appear: Bestia Domestica with a giant rat trap, Kremlin Duchess locked up in a henhouse, a Man with a wooden board on his back, a Man with two additional legs, a Man on two bike wheels, a Suicidal Man – a Prestidigitator, a Man with a scandalous luggage (a skeleton), a Man with doors, a Man with two heads, a Gypsy Man with a violin playing itself. The entirety of the events could not be comprehended by the audience. Kantor took an active stance, interfered with the actors’ performances, sat in the audience just to get up and join the action. It heralded his active part in performances to follow.