Tadeusz Kantor - The Water Hen
Premiere: 28.04.1967, Krzysztofory Gallery, Kraków.
Kantow once again based the action on Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s drama. Fascinated at the time with happenings, he decided to bring his experiences into the theatre and defined the performance as Happening Theatre.
The space of the Kszysztofory Palace’s cellars was in a turmoil. The chaos was accompanied by the smell of coffee and cigarettes. There was no border between the stage and the audience. In the single space the reality (café) and the artistic space (Witkacy’s play) were merged. The performance had no clear beginning or end. The actors mingled with the audience, spoke in bits and pieces from Witkacy’s text, added comments of their own. Like constant wanderers they kept leaving the room just to come back again. They carried giant suitcases and packages. Characters that were to reappear in Kantor’s work were on stage: two Hasidic Men with The Last Resort, Tsadik with the Trumpet of the Judgement Day, Thug with his Mistress. The Great Gymnast with a backpack, two soldiers.
The narrative broke and melted into simple daily tasks: carrying packages, taking a bath, dancing, arguing loudly, resting at a table. Waiters served vodka and other drinks. A girl rummaged through a giant sack to find the right receipt. Another girl threw spoons around. A sound of a sewing machine could be heard. Two Hasidic Men unceremoniously set out shaving kits and soaped up their faces. Moments later they ecstatically started cleaning their clothes. The bathtub was filled up with water and the title character of the play was drowned in it, just to leave a moment later to become the main course at dinner, but instead was shot by Edgar. Near the end a couple of people played cards at a table. The audience were leaving the room at this point. Kantor was turning the pages of the screenplay, as if making sure that the performance does not come apart completely – it was the first time he had shown his presence to this extent. The Water Hen initiated the international tour of the Cricot 2 Theatre. It was the first of Kantor’s work to be shown at the Edinbugh Festival.