PuSh Festival: In the Solitude of Cotton Fields' "hysterical theatre" cranks techno

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      Radoslaw Rychcik is not always easy to understand, and that’s not only because he’s speaking fractured English into a crackling cellphone on the line from his home in Cracow, Poland. The real language barrier is that he’s trying to explain something that’s probably best experienced first-hand: his notion of “hysterical theatre”. Fortunately, Vancouver audiences will be able to do just that when Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre presents his take on French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltí¨s’s In the Solitude of Cotton Fields as part of the 2011 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

      In the PuSh program, Rychcik describes his approach as one that’s “based on extreme emotion, where the spectator is slapped in the face, gets a moment’s break, and is slapped again”. Continuing with this theme of body contact—and paraphrasing the philosopher and critic Roland Barthes—the director compares his style to another highly ritualized form of performance.

      “Wrestling is the art of fighting,” he says as a way of indicating the outsize emotions he hopes to present. “It’s not fighting itself, but it’s the art of fighting. It’s a fake fight, where the gestures are more interesting, more exciting, than true.”

      It’s both ironic and apt, then, that the script he’s working with is all about the impossibility of making a meaningful connection. In the Solitude of Cotton Fieldshas only two characters: the Dealer and the Client. They’re engaged in some kind of transaction, although whether they’re negotiating the purchase of drugs or sex or mutual funds is unclear. And they never address each other directly, either. Instead, they deliver alternating soliloquies to the audience—backed, in this production, by live techno from the band Natural Born Chillers.

      The approach sounds deliberately stylized and more than a little alienating—the polar opposite of the naturalistic acting that’s the norm in North America.

      “The main idea is a kind of high emotional theatre,” Rychcik says. “People on the stage are different from people in their lives, you know. And the difference demands some kind of high emotional level. When you meet a girl or a meet a man, you love a girl or love a man, you want to shout, you want to break something. And I like this emotion in theatre. The hysterical theatre is some kind of spectacular way to describe our feelings. It’s very emotional, very touchy”¦.It’s not psychological theatre, but a theatre of demands.”

      In the Solitude of Cotton Fields runs at Performance Works from Wednesday to next Saturday (January 19 to 22).




      Jan 23, 2011 at 7:15pm

      Saw this show last night and didn't care for it but others seemed to like it cause they stood up. I felt the material and this self-described "hysterical theatre" was juvenile at best - the actors, if you can call them that, crossed the line many times into wanksville. had to ask myself - who are these guys doing this for? themselves, obviously. the worst kind of art in my opinion

      Bogumil Pacak-Gamalski

      Jan 24, 2011 at 12:56am

      Have seen it twice in the Performnance Works on Granville Island. Amazing experience. One of the best plays I vave seen in Vanouver in a rather long time. And what a tour the force of the entire ensemble, especially the two actors from Poland. Splendid and indeed a very emotionally charged evening.

      Katarina Balazs

      Jan 24, 2011 at 11:09am

      Convenience and fear is what makes one so timid and unable to face drama. I'd rather experience it in theatre than in real life. The performers were in a head space of the characters. If someone finds it juvenile, well, the artists themselves are young and raw and full of life,... They communicated something that is in very close relation to what we don't like to talk about, what we hide from view, but it's still there, like personal evolution, or better yet, what happens to it, when we become absorbed by comfort of everyday buyable luxury...
      Desire will never dissapear; can be transormed into an intense work of art or can never come to the surface. Art starts with "doing it for myself".
      I found it very refreshing, waking.