”Serena – a Treatise on Vowels”, a theatrical installation inspired by ”The Little Mermaid” by H.C. Andersen, is a tale about crossing the borders of existence. Love intermingles here with the feeling of emptiness. Characters are put in extreme situations with no options of a simple choices. The title Mermaid (half woman and half fish) decides to totally deconstruct her world. She exceeds all bounderies of existence. Being aware of the possibile consequences, both she and the Prince decide to yield to ultimate love. The performance is a sort of struggle between life and death, between being and not being, becoming thus an elegy on non-fulfilment.
A modern stage in the theatre building situated in Zamoyskiego Street redefines the traditional viewer-actor relationship, turning the piece into an act of performance art. Its unhurried plot provides a comfortable situation for mutual recognition. It is possibile as all the characters, contributing of course to a coherent whole, present their individual shows. Thus each of them becomes the main hero of his or her own personal story. Despite the fact that the performance can mosty do without words, three characters are put on the foreground, and each of them is memorable. Very special rounds of applause are deserved by the phenomenal Prince played by Jacek Tyszkiewicz who, due to the specifics of the piece, had to focus mainly on his breathing and a strict control of each grimace and step, as well as by the statuesque character of Death played by Marta Zoń, who introduced elements of horror and created space for reflection in a masterly way.
Along with excellent acting, balancing on the edge of artistic gymnastics and pantomime, this highly refined visual spectacle is constructed with non-human elements. Abstract, overdrawn costumes (by Joanna Braun) and the play of light and shadow (by Tomasz Schaefer) create a magical atmosphere of fairyland. The whole is complemented by the music (by Dawid Sulej Rudnicki) filling the places traditionally dominated by dialogues and monologues done by the characters. Its mood, style and intensity depend on the developments on the stage.
The piece is full of metaphors, symbols and elements understood at the intuitive level. By minimising the number of words uttered in the course of action, the story offers lots of space for our own reflections. It is indeed a very intimate tale for its very creator, Joanna Braun, yet she does not tend to appropriate the message of her work. On the contrary, she gives it to the viewers who can interpret it in their own personal way.
This theatrical installation, produced at the KTO Theatre, is a beautiful visual spectacle. Mermaids (Aleksandra Sroka, Aurora Lipartowska, Paulina Dziuba) remaining under water and Triton (Szymon Pater) hypnotise the audience with their dance expressing desires, jealousy, yearning for self-expression and dreams about other better life.
Its text is full of metaphors. Carnival is a pretext to lead the audience through a multitude of worlds. Water is a refuge in which mermaids feel safe but, at the same time, incapable of touching the essence of their existence. The title Mermaid’s retreat from that space is for her a chance to fulfil her dreams about pure affection, but at the same time it involves risk and suffering. Although the external world offers her a relationship with the Prince, it is also scarred by the omnipresent Death.
The story is told by the Masks which symbolise us, human beings confronted daily with inability to express feelings. Emotions, however, are often nameable. They can be liberated with the help of vowels, the intrinsic sounds of our souls.
Although the performance is mainly based on various forms of movement and vocalise, it is still very interesting in the textual sphere itself. A very personal script by Joanna Braun provides an opportunity for an all-new quality of „reading”. The full title ”Serena – a Treatise on Vowels” is not coincidental as the said vowels become an integral part of the story. The author embodies in them all particular feelings and emotions that accompany the characters. Therefore, vowels, as presented here, are not a linguistic concept but a living medium designed to communicate emotions.
The performance combines some elements of profanum and sacrum expressed through intensive movement and pulsating music. Words as a vehicle for communication appear at the most intimate moments, only at the times when the characters can afford to make their sincere confessions.
The audience is cordially invited to a ball with an unpredictable dramatic composition.
”Serena – a Treatise on Vowels” is a theatrical installation created within the framework of the KTO Theatre’s project called Four Shades of Theatre and co-financed from the funds of the European Economic Area (EEA) Financial Mechanism 2014-2021, Programme ”Culture”, Outcome 2: ”Access to Culture and Art Improved”.
Script, set design, costumes
Katarzyna Anna Małachowska
Dramaturgy, directing cooperation
Dawid Sulej Rudnicki
Costumes – implementation
Assistant set designer
Implementation of scenography
Jacek Jastrzębski, firma Daul
Grażyna Srebrny-Rosa (Serena)
Bartek Cieniawa / Jacek Tyszkiewicz (Prince)
Marta Zoń (Death / Bride)
Szymon Pater (Tryton)
Aleksandra Sroka (Mermaid 1)
Aurora Lipartowska (Mermaid 2)
Paulina Dziuba (Mermaid 3)
Magdalena Pietnoczka (Mask 1)
Mieszko Syc (Mask 2)
Elena Khutsidze (Mask 3)
Michał Orzyłowski (Mask 4)
Magda Dymsza / Wiktoria Łuczak (Mask 5)
Tomasz Łukawski (Mask 6)
January, 21, 22, 2022