Mumerus travels to unknown countries

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is unique among famous books in the English language not only because it is an outstanding and imaginative work of satire, but also because nobody reads more than the first half of the book.  If you know anything about Gulliver’s adventures, you know that he travels to a land of little people (Lilliput), a land of giants (Brobdingnag), and then… Well, exactly. Meanwhile, Krakow’s Mumerus group (affiliated with the Groteska Puppet Theater) have taken it upon themselves to present Part III of this book, in a performance entitled, “Laputa and Lagado,” which is part of the ongoing Sten non-institutional theater festival at the theater on ul.  Kanonicza 1. The idea, I believe, is a good one.  Entering the theater, one is suddenly very curious as to what on Earth could be in this third chapter, and the combination of a puppet theater and Swift sounds like a good one. Unfortunately, Mumerus has a long-standing tradition of coming up with worthy ideas and then not taking advantage of them.  Laputa & Lagado is, alas, no exception.  Like most satirists, Swift was more of a didactic (not to say pedantic) writer than a literary one at times, a writer who was more interested in driving a point home than getting caught up in the subtleties and ambiguities of language as such.  Mumerus exacerbates this situation by removing the character of Gulliver from the stage, and making him only an occasional, ghostly narrative voice.  It’s an interesting choice, but it does leave the actors on stage with little to do but to recite the peculiarities of their respective lands to the audience. With almost no room for dialogue or interaction, this becomes satire with a sledgehammer. This is in some sense a shame, because the machines created for the play – a mechanical violin contraption, a word-making machine – the masks and costumes, and the use of musical instruments, such as a wineglass and a Jew’s harp, are all quite inventive.  Moreover, the confusion of languages on-stage makes the production quite accessible to foreign viewers, who ought to be able to piece most of it together from the Italian/English/German/Latin/Czech being used.  When the actors are permitted to act and not merely declaim, it becomes clear that they have some talent.  And so one feels that this could have been something quite lovely, if only one felt there was something motivating it, if only the bizarreness were a little more bizarre, if only… and so on.Laputa & Lagado will be re-staged in September in the Groteska Theater (see:  if you have not been discouraged).  Meanwhile, the stage on Kanonicza has a full program of independent theater groups lined up until September 2, by playwrights including Gombrowicz, Diderot, Ionesco and Mrozek.
 

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