A Call for Solidarity

"Wałęsa: A Happy story made Sad by being so," directed by Michał Zadara in the Wybrzeże Theater is a passionate story about the first 'Solidarity' movement, told through the eyes of Generation X.

How did it come to pass that the most important historical event in Polish society had so little of an echo in art and culture? There are no well known stories about this event. Following "Man of Steel" by Andrzej Wajda, there have been no movies made about this event (one would be hard pressed to call the documentary made for this year's anniversary a 'movie').

Given this background, the play written by Paweł Demirski and directed by Michał Zadara in the Wybrzeże Theater is an unusual event. The young artists, born towards the end of the 70s executed a play about the generation of their fathers. They did this despite all the stereotypes about generation X, for whom Solidarity is supposedly just as distant and remote as the battles of the middle ages. They managed to enter into a dialogue with the myth of Solidarity in which they found a semblance of their own identity.

Demirski tells the story of Wałęsa from the famous 'jump over the fence' in 1980 up until the beginning of the round table negotiations in 1989. The material he uses is authentic documentary evidence, speeches, fragments of interviews and Wałęsa's own memoires, "A Way of Hope." However, the play is not simply a documentary or biography, but an attempt to show the events of those times from the point of view of the current generation, brought up under freedom and independence. From this perspective, the fight for political freedom takes second place to the fight for a dignified life, which was at the core of the workers' protests.

Demirski quotes Andrzej Gwiazda, one of the workers on the strike committee, whose words still ring true today "the whole economy is based on how much we produce, how many meters of cable, steel, etc - but not on how well a worker or a teacher is living."

The common point between the old and the news times is Wałęsa himself, who is played by Arkadiusz Brykalski. The young actor is not characterized to mimic Wałęsa. He could be just about anyone, he could fit in with any crowd. He is a person who is complex, on the one hand a charismatic leader who moves forward like a tank, on the other hand, a person who has numerous human weaknesses, who is often scared and unsure of the path to take. The scene wherein he decides to continue the strike is shear genius: Wałęsa sits, silently surrounded by his co-workers who gaze at him with steely eyes.

Małgorzata Brajner is a great supporting actress, taking up the role of Wałęsa's wife, while all of the other characters in the play are played on a rotational basis, so someone who is a worker in one scene, will be a police officer in another.

The most important aspect of the play is its' morale. What connects the young authors of the play with the generation of their fathers is a need for social solidarity. The ending of the play is great - we have two scenes at the courthouse in Warsaw. One of them is from the end of 70s, when the workers of the Independent Trade Unions show up to defend one of their friends.

The second scene is contenmporary; it tells of workers in a private company who are litigating their employer. The difference is that this time around, there are three times less people on hand to help and no one joins with them.

Demirski and Zadara call upon the myth of Solidarity to show how necessary Solidarity is today in the divided society of a free market, where each person must fight for his own lot. Is it not a paradox that artists who were only a few years old in the early 80s are now calling out for Solidarity?


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