All shades of the blue planet – english translation of theater review by Anna Jazgarska, teatralny.pl
The atmosphere of the latest production by Gdańsk’s Miniatura Theatre recalls Krzysztof Gradowski’s 1980s film series – the slightly psychedelic tales of Mr Kleks and his pupils.
In The Blue Planet, just as in those films, the levity and naiveté of childhood years is confronted with elements which shake up this land of happiness, forcing the characters to make difficult choices and changing the prevalent perspective on reality. And all this happens within a space full of remarkable places and bizarre creatures, a marvellous place which also hides a few shady nooks and crannies.
The production of The Blue Planet is the Polish premiere of the play by Andri Snær Magnason. The Icelandic author has adapted for the stage his greatly acclaimed novel (awarded, among others, the Janusz Korczak Literary Prize) The Story of the Blue Planet. The play was directed by another Icelander – director and actor Erling Jóhannesson who, together with the set designer Iza Toroniewicz, has prepared a performance which delights with its form and is very interesting in its content.
In the context of the first scenes of the play, the blue planet is seen as a place in which time has stopped, a place isolated from the rest of the universe, self-sufficient and suspended in its own, safe unchanging rhythm. A paradise? Definitely a variation on the theme, drenched in shades of purple and blue and soothing for the eye. This weird land of paradisiacal provenance is inhabited by equally bizarre beings – children who never grow old. The perpetually young inhabitants of the blue planet spend their time having fun and satisfying their basic needs. Nothing and no-one disturbs the carefree monotony of their perennially child-like existence. Until.
Jolly Goodday (Piotr Kłudka) is an inter-galactic vacuum cleaner salesman whose spaceship accidentally (?) lands on the blue planet. Initially his unexpected arrival awakes in the children a dormant need to experience something new, exciting and even a little scary. Brimir (Jakub Ehrlich) and Hulda (Edyta Janusz-Ehrlich) instantly weave a tale concerning the sudden guest. “It’s a monster!”, they warn their fellow tribespeople and, as it will later turn out, this seemingly exaggerated phrase, which carries the threat of danger, is not so far removed from who the smiling Jolly really is.
Piotr Kłudka creates the character of Jolly in a way which, from the “planet-to-planet” salesman’s initial appearance, makes us believe that the smiles, jokes and gags conceal something menacing and that Jolly possesses yet another side to his cheery personality – not at all funny and kind. The character of the intergalactic salesman stirs a strange and intangible feeling of anxiety, which increases when Jolly starts introducing some completely new, previously unknown elements into the children’s existence. The mechanism behind his actions is straightforward yet effective. Jolly convinces the children that their existence has hitherto been simply boring and proceeds to suggest a non-standard way out of the monotony by giving them butterfly dust which will enable them to fly. He will then cover their skin in a mysterious substance, thanks to which the dust will never wash off. He will nail the sun to the sky to stop it from ever setting again, thus allowing the children to enjoy incessant fun. And all this under one condition – the children will give him a little bit of their perpetual youth.
Their consent to the mysterious guest’s offer sets in motion an entire avalanche of events which to a large degree serve as initiation for the children’s community. Brimir and Hulda accidentally find themselves on the other side of the planet which has been plunged into darkness through Jolly’s actions, its murky recesses inhabited by blood-thirsty monsters. It is also inhabited by some children, hungry, scared and frozen from the constant chill. It is the confrontation with this community which forces Brimir and Hulda to review their former lives. They return to the sunny side of the planet having resolved to introduce some changes. This, however, does not prove that easy. By letting the cunning Jolly into their lives the children have brought irreversible changes into their own private space. The carefree fairy-tale about perpetual childhood has unexpectedly turned into an alarming story about instantly growing up.
The play’s greatest merit is that it is not obvious. The world of the blue planet is free from clear-cut, radical divisions. Nothing here is black or white, everything and everyone scintillates in various shades of various colours. There is no room for imposing simple story-lines or “home truths”. The end of the performance is very ambiguous and does not provide a resolution, merely suggesting options instead. The tale of perpetual children contains a multitude of meanings. It talks about alienation and standing out. It draws our attention to the myriad dimensions and meanings in the world. It tackles the currently important issue of possession and access to various products. Finally and most importantly, it very clearly shows the consequences of ill-considered decisions, taken on the spur of the moment and for hedonistic reasons. Despite the multitude of subjects tackled, the play is clearly constructed and easily comprehensible to a young audience. What is more, the story of the blue planet and its inhabitants arouses great emotions in children. In the performance I watched most of the audience were children whose degree of excitement at the play seemed to be reaching maximum levels.
The beautiful set design by Iza Toroniewicz, the unusual and very ‘northern’ music by the Icelandic band múm mean that this interesting and wise play can be watched with interest and great pleasure. The cast of the Miniatura Theatre come off very well (with the rest of the cast, apart from the roles already mentioned, including: Wioleta Karpowicz, Wojciech Stachura, Jakub Zalewski and Magdalena Żulińska). Piotr Kłudka as Jolly Goodday deserves a recognition for his rendition of the adult who conceals a child within. A selfish child but quite possibly also very lonely.
And then, the play’s finale. No dismissing or chasing “evil” away, no brushing things under the carpet, as it very often happens with children’s stories. “Evil” sometimes cannot be chased away. But one can attempt to get to know and tame it – as the makers of “The Blue Planet” attempt to prove.