Jerzi Grotowski, a Polish stage director and theatre philosopher, even got to study at the Lunacharsky Institute of Theatre Arts for two years in 1950s. Although they evidently didn’t miss him going (for health reasons), they later were immensely proud to once have had such an outstanding student.
In the video below is a recording of Grotowski’s rehearsal with his actors. As Slava Polunin explains, Grotowski with his “poor theatre” was a gateway to the theory of Stanislavsky, albeit from a side door:
I got acquainted with Stanislavsky through Grotowski. I found interesting this phenomenon of an artist’s fantastic self-sacrifice during the performance that he had already finished calling so by then. There he fell into hysterics, he revealed his subconscious, even some very intimate parts of it… Once again, this is where one needs intuition and consideration. I followed Grotowski to see, whether an actor can perform tragedy, burning himself down and trying his physics. By means of the clownery as the most relative of the arts, I wanted to reveal the real human pain. And eventually I came to Stanislavsky via Grotowski. I have realized that psychology and clownery can co-exist.
The rehearsal follows some sort of physical training. One doesn’t need to watch very attentively to see that Grotowski was in formidable command of his physique, and every gesture is so beautiful that you contemplate it as a thing-in-itself, an ideal form. Somehow in this video Grotowsky reminds me of Jacques Brel and Mick Jagger, he brims with romantic expression and passion for his “thing”.
Grotowski’s central idea was that of a ‘poor theatre’, the theatre that concentrates on an actor as a centrepiece of the performance, and that abandons excessive stage decor and costumes in order to deliver the essense of a play. Already in 1950s-60s Grotowski compared theatre with a “leisure venue”, similar to a sauna or a restaurant where for a certain fee an actor sells his gift to the adience – very much like a prostitute sells her body. Grotowski’s idea was also to liberate theatre from continuous comparisons against the opportunities of Cinema: theatre offered a very different experience, and so should have been left to develop in as much austerity, as was possible.
Read more: Jerzi Grotowski’ biography at Jason Bennett’s Actors Workshop;