Recenzja książki Magdalen Hasiuk, „Okrutnie dziwna strona” świata. Wokół teatru więziennego (Oficyna Wydawnicza Errata, Warszawa 2015)
Review of Magdalena Hasiuk's book „Okrutnie dziwna strona” świata. Wokół teatru więziennego (Oficyna Wydawnicza Errata: Warszawa, 2015).
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The book by Magdalena Hasiuk is the first monograph of Polish prison theatre. The author presents the theatrical work carried on in Polish prisons today against a broad historical background (starting with the gladiator fights, through acts of public executions and punishments, up to the 20th-century penitentiary system reform) and within a rich geographical context (the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy). By describing and analysing the phenomenon, Hasiuk presents the world of isolation, the problems and emotions of inmates. She pays much attention to women leaders of prison theatre. She believes that the penal institutions have been changing thanks to their presence. Hasiuk distinguishes seven types of prison theatre that differ with respect to what goals the leaders intend to accomplish and what methods they use to get there. Despite this variety, all theatrical activity in prisons is therapeutic. The theatre of the essence, which not only teaches social skills but also aims at transforming the inmates, offers the highest grade of therapy. This is how artist and therapist Krzysztof Papis works. The author deems the therapeutic role of prison theatre to be its most essential aspect, but her research goes further than that. She refers not only to psychological and sociological theories, but also to the work of cultural scholars, theatre theoreticians, and artists. She compares the experience of incarceration and later release from prison to a ritual. She finds traces of the theories and theatre practice of Brook and Grotowski. She shows how the new media are utilised in prison theatre performances. She finds common features of three different social institutions: the convent, the theatre, and the prison. She describes the stage and the prison alike as a space full of locked doors, restrictions that need to be overcome. The motif of crossing the boundaries permeates the whole book. The inmates, leaders, and viewers are all the ones crossing such physical and internal boundaries. Prison theatre requires further research with a necessary participation of psychologists and sociologists. It can change not only prisoners, but also the leaders and the whole penal institution. This monograph, apart from its scholarly merit, carries a profoundly humanist message that we refrain from judgment and try to meet with the other—the excluded. Such description of the prison theatre in Poland would not have been possible if it was not for the author’s personal experience which involved interviews with theatre leaders, inmates, and spectators and watching the rehearsals and performances.
- M. Hasiuk, Théâtre du Soleil. Od rewolucji na kozłach do odysei uchodźców, Warszawa 2016, IS PAN.
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