A suited man with a white painted face stands in front of the red curtain wearing an evil grin, describing the dream he recently had. He adopts a hunched posture, frowns, and fills his tale with phrases that every Pole instantly associates with the leader of the Law and Justice political party. Amused by the satirical mimicry of Jarosław Kaczyński’s mannerisms, the spectators laugh heartily. Not for long, however, as over the next two hours, the parody will turn into a hopeless and disheartening political prophecy.
The newest play by the Strzępka/Demirski duet takes us to the not-too-distant future of public affairs in Poland. We meet the characters on election night October 2019, anxiously awaiting the exit poll results. The protagonists of this political drama are the titular K (Marcin Czarnik) and Donald (Jacek Poniedziałek), leaders of the two most prominent parties in recent years, Law and Justice and Civic Platform respectively.
The two leaders are exact opposites of one another. While the former spends the momentous night at home, sitting in comfy slippers and reminiscing about his nationalistic upbringing, the latter has just returned from Brussels and does not seem to be happy at all about being back in provincial Poland. Neither of them, however, seems to care about the well-being of the citizens.
They are each accompanied by a wide array of characters who serve as thinly disguised symbols of some recognizable political groups. One is Partia Clownów (the Clown Party), a hybrid of certain modern opportunists who promised to change the Polish political stage but ended up being swallowed by it. The other is the resurrected liberal democratic Freedom Union who’s been devastated by its fondness for profusion. Finally, there is also Na Sprzedaż (For Sale), the archetypal political flip-flopper. Demirski’s political fiction also includes portrayals of representatives of the two dominant groups of citizens; first, the ever dissatisfied Powiatowa who wields a blood-stained butcher knife at the politicians and second, the distanced Anonymous who was born in democratic Poland and feels threatened by all the political games.
The feeling of election frenzy is effectively charged up by the cast. Particularly eye-catching are the confrontations between K and Donald which reveal the chemistry between the two. The political adversaries continually tease and growl at each other. In the end, however, Donald, whom Poniedziałek plays as the “nice guy next door” who enjoys the cosmopolitan lifestyle, turns out to be a great fit for K’s deceased twin as both put on political masks to manipulate the crowds. Joanna Drozda’s performance is also superb. Her energetic (sometimes to the point of becoming maniacal) portrayal of Freedom Union suggests a slightly erratic elderly relative who continues to live in the past and never learns from her mistakes. Finally, Arek Ślesiński’s set design is worth nothing. It skilfully likens the Polish parliament to a circus arena full of bloodthirsty, nightmarish figures.
The vision Strzępka and Demirski offer to their spectators, most of whom are probably fed up with the current political tension in Poland, is anything but reassuring. “I don’t know the people, I don’t understand their problems” says K, thus accentuating the duo’s view that future events will only exacerbate the conflicts that already exist, creating even greater discord between politicians and voters.