a play by Kazimierz Mikulski 1957
The circus people come on stage. A wave of applause runs through the whole house, fills it acoustically.
The applause turns into the sound of falling rain. The acrobats get hold of punctured, dripping umbrellas and seek shelter under them. The rain gets heavier and heavier.
The announcer is among the spectators. In his comments he does not hide the truth about the poverty of the company. The manager of the circus Franciszek sings his poem – he is a poet – and talks to his wife Małgorzata, who is roasting a duck behind the scenes. It is the most intelligent duck they have. They have decided to eat it. The situation does not look too hopeful.
The circus manager’s singing.
A big white sheet falls on the actor. Trapped inside it, he moves his arms and his whole body in comic manoeuvres with the white phantom. The harsh light from behind throws on the screen the agile and disjoined silhouette of the singer.
Małgorzata, the manager’s wife:
big white legs and thighs of the sitting actress are sticking from behind the scenes.
Someone knocks at the window. Clown August climbs in through the window. The rain does not make him cheerful. Nor does the fact that he is a demoted clown. He comes along because he has accustomed himself to making such calls. Perhaps he has hopes, too. Małgorzata sends her husband to fetch some salt for the duck. Husband leaves.
There is no window on the stage. There are only bare, poor stage boards. A bare floor. There is a hole in the floor, not a trap-door, but just a hole. There emerges from it first a folded-up umbrella and then clown August up to the waist. Only his trunk and the umbrella take part in the play.
As soon as the manager is away, the announcer betrays to the audience one of the behind-the-scenes secrets – the affair of the clown and Małgorzata.
At the same moment Małgorzata emerges from the hole in the floor, next to the clown.
Their being together lasts only for a short time for manager re-enters. Małgorzata disappears with the clown.
The cuckolded husband must have seen the pair disappearing together. But his inborn tact prevents him from aggravating the situation.
The more so, as there is a new guest on stage, Anastazy the juggler. From the vague remarks of the announcer we may conclude that the juggler is unemployed and the circus has gone into liquidation.
Apparently the circus people do not care. They are satisfied with dreams of an imminent big premiere.
It is raining continuously. The sick juggler does his best to hide the failure of his life. The manager, by the way, does exactly the same. He confesses to the juggler that he breeds mice in a wardrobe and trains them for the big premiere. They both climb the wardrobe. The confessions of the juggler suggest that he is a dangerous sexual pervert.
There is a single object on the stage floor: the black wardrobe.
A real wardrobe. The juggler and the manager climb onto it. They seem very happy there. They feel on top of the world. They are in possession of a wide view. Through a crevice they look into the wardrobe. The doors of the wardrobe open slowly. Inside, like two dummies, stand two female horseback performers in black patent leather skirts.
The manager shuts the doors of the wardrobe hurriedly.
The juggler wants to demonstrate his skill, but it is clear from the start what the result will be.
He takes the manager’s three remaining glasses, one by one, throws them up, and breaks them.
The juggler takes position against the white screen. His sick arms try to make some gestures. A film is projected on the screen and on the juggler’s figure – bits and pieces that dazzle in the light first go up and then fall down violently, completely broken up. An impression of a catastrophe, the sound of broken glass, the figure of the juggler deformed and cut by the rain of sharp, dazzling forms of the film image.
Another experiment which is to prove the juggler’s skill.
In spite of the protests of the frightened manager, the juggler puts him against the wall and starts preparations for throwing knives around his body. Since it is rather dark, the juggler gives the manager a candle.
The manager signs a sad poem as he is filled with foreboding. The juggler throws a knife. The juggler’s shouts are left unanswered. He leaves quickly.
Małgorzata appears carrying a roast duck on a plate. She shouts. The juggler replies from the corridor and announces the circus manager’s death.
The circus manager is standing on the stage with a burning candle in his hand. He is singing his last poem. The mad juggler is aiming his knife at the manager. The screen. A film is put on. A window pane running with raindrops. More and more raindrops. Behind them looms the figure of the circus manager under an umbrella. Streams of rain are pouring down the umbrella. The circus veteran moves further and further away. He turns his face. The rain one the pane gradually blurs the picture.
Enter Małgorzata with a dish. Of course there is no duck on the plate. Enter the murderer Anastazy and the lover August. All three stand with mournful faces. Each says a kind of funeral oration.
A funeral banquet. Everybody takes a seat at the table. The manager’s dead body is brought in in an armchair. Małgorzata serves the roast duck. The announcer shares his comments with the audience – they refer to the macabre feast. He dwells on the indecorous appetite of these present.
The dead manager is appalled by Małgorzata’s extravagance. She gets even with him by expressing openly her opinion about his talent and his poetry.
The circus manager is puzzled and disappears into the other world.
The funeral banquet. The actors lift a giant black bag that has lain folded up at the back of the stage. They lift it in such a way that all of a sudden they all find themselves in it. The sack occupies the whole area of the stage. There are holes in the sack. Some of these openings display the actor’s heads, some their hands. There are lots of hands as there are a few supernumeraries in the sack; they are allowed to expose their hands only. Hands and heads in black cloth. They move, come close to another, part, a white dish is passed on f r o m
h a n d t o h a n d. This funeral pantomime is accompanied by amplified sound of bone breaking, They come from a loudspeaker put inside the sack. The circus manager with a burning candle enters very slowly. He is supported by two black patent leather female horseback performers.
The enormous black sack with hands and heads keeps waving, its spasmodic movements slowly die down, everything dies down slowly, the heads and hands disappear one by one.
The manager is already gone.
But he comes back again. He looks round. He opens the wardrobe, takes out his old umbrella and puts it up. The opened umbrella runs with rain.
The circus manager leaves for good.
Pleśniarowicz, Krzysztof (chosen and ed. by). Metamorfozy. Teksty o latach 1938-1974. [Metamorphoses. Texts about the years 1928 – 1974] Kraków: Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor Cricoteka, Księgarnia Akademicka, Kraków 2000, p. 165-168.
Translated by: Andrzej and Grażyna Branny