In 1955 Tadeusz Kantor founded the Cricot 2 Theatre. At the beginning the theatre was located in the Artists’ House, later on (after 1961) in the medieval cellars of the Krzysztofory Gallery. In 1980 Tadeusz Kantor left Krzysztofory. The City offered him the premises for the Archives of his theatre at 5 Kanonicza Street. The Cricot 2 Theatre never existed as an institution.
In the years 1955-1973 Kantor presented successive performances strictly connected with the stages of his artistic activity as a painter, and the source of topics were mainly Witkacy’s plays. The first performance – “The Cuttle Fish” was prepared together with Maria Jarema. On his next productions he worked alone, adding theoretical comments to them. The characters and plot from Witkacy’s plays were merely a pretext for showing the important idea of art defined by Tadeusz Kantor in his manifestos: “In a Little Manor House” (1961) – the Informel Theatre, “The Madman and the Nun” (1963) – the Zero Theatre, “The Water Hen” (1967) – the Idea of a Journey, “Lovelies and Dowdies” (1973) – the Impossible Theatre .
In 1975 the premiere of “The Dead Class” took place – a production which was to become a legendary one. The theoretical explanation of its underlying idea could be found in the “Manifesto of the Theatre of Death.” for the artist it was the beginning of the theatre of memory. Tadeusz Kantor described his artistic work as a Great and Dangerous Journey into the Unknown. In “Wielopole, Wielopole” in 1980 he revived on the stage the time of his childhood. The fate of his dead relatives and friends became interwoven with the figures and events from the Bible, which completed the memories of the past. In 1985 his theatre, which he called a Fair Booth , presented another performance: “Let the Artists Die”. What could be seen on the stage was the process of dying, the functioning of memory, the act of creation, the fate of the artist and of the work of art.
In “I Shall Never Return” (1988) Tadeusz Kantor returns to his wartime production “The Return of Odysseus”, which is set in the ruined memory machine – the desks from “The Dead Class”. The artists creates the scene of his own wedding ceremony, to which he invites the characters from the Cricot 2 Theatre; he pronounces a touching manifesto about the painful process of creation and of passing away. The performance ends with the great emballage of the end of the 20th century to the sounds of Berlioz’s “Rakoczy March” – the objects and figures from the theatre are covered with black fabric. Still, this is not his final parting with the stage yet.
In 1989 Tadeusz Kantor started working on a new production. It was “Today Is My Birthday”. The text included the following words:
My life, my fate
were in unity with my creation.
Work of art.
They were fulfilled in my creation.
They found a solution there.
My creation was – and still is – my Home.
The painting, the performance, the theatre, the stage.
This section includes fragments of premiere programmes of various plays as well as Tadeusz Kantor’s theoretical texts.
Section prepared by: Anna Halczak