This week, Kafkadesk spoke with Hayley, from the English Touring Theatre Company, one of Poland’s most prominent English-speaking theatre company.
What exactly is the English Touring Theatre Company? How did it come about?
We started three years ago because, one evening, Don Allen wanted to see some theatre and, not understanding Polish too well, he wanted to see something in English. But there was nothing. Absolutely nothing – not at the time and not in the future. So, right then and there, he decided to start his own theatre company – and that’s how (and why) the English Touring Theatre Company began!
Why have an English-speaking theatre company in Poland?
Easy – because people love theatre! And if you speak English (regardless of where you’re from) it provides not only a perfect and stimulating form of entertainment, but also the opportunity to meet other people from other nationalities who speak English.
How well is it received within the local population?
We are still growing and developing and trying to reach new people, however, all the feedback we have received has been very positive. And it’s also really encouraging to hear the same, similar, phrase repeated so often, “we thought it would be okay, but we had no idea it would be this good!” And another regular comment is, “this is exactly what is needed”. Which makes us feel even more positive.
Who is your audience? Is it only foreign or do Poles also attend your performances?
More than 95% of our audience is Polish and the response has been overwhelming! We also do a Q&A session after each performance – as soon as the show is over, the audience stretch their legs for a few minutes, then the actors come and sit at the front of the stage and share their stories, and the audience has the opportunity to ask questions, and really get to the know the people within ETTC. It’s been great! And the audience loves it!
We saw you started organizing workshops. What do they consist of?
Acting workshops actually started before our first performance. Back in the UK, Don had experience working in TIE (Theatre in Education) and also visiting schools and running Business workshops to students. (He was invited to give a TEDx talk – Be Inspired by Emotional Impact). Acting workshops allows ETTC to get personally involved with people who want to learn to act, or even those just wishing to have a try! And we lead acting workshops in schools and for companies, so we cover a wide age range. They also allow people to build their confidence – standing in front of an audience can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences.
Tell us more about Tram 23:11.
Tram 23:11 is, by far, the most ‘beautiful’ play that we have. Very simply, it’s about six very different people who die at the same time (23:11) and they’re being transported to, somewhere… on a tram. Accompanying them on this journey is Wings, and Wings has been their unseen guardian angel since the day they were born. So he has (as he tells them) seen everything they’ve done. It’s a straightforward journey, and the six become more aware, and accepting, that they are dead. However! To proceed onto the next part of their journey they need a ticket – and Wings discovers he only has five tickets! Which means one of them isn’t dead! They’re all very different people – disparate and selfish, and they argue. But, slowly, they start to bond and reveal their true qualities – and it’s beautiful! At the end of the play, we usually have a full audience in tears.
I won’t reveal more because it really is a most beautiful and emotional play. It was an idea conceived by Don and he worked with a writer (Beth Friend) to create the first version, but since then Don has expanded on the play and now it is so well received each time we perform it.
What about your repertoire in general?
We have eight other plays – a modern-day adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing; our version of A Christmas Carol; a sketch show called Only in Poland, Baby!; Closer (by Patrick Marber); three comedies – How To Ruin A Great Play!, The Dinner Party Twist and It’s Only a Bed; and one more drama, A Date To Remember.
And do you have any plans or new projects planned for the future (new plays, expanding outside of Poland, etc.)?
Beginning 2019, we will be touring much more, as well as doing our own modern-day adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. We aim to visit as many towns and cities in Poland as we can and (maybe!) we will tour to a neighbouring country. (We’ve actually been invited a couple of times, so definitely want to do this!). It’s a really exciting time to be involved in theatre in Poland and we really hope to reach as many people as possible – particularly young people – so we can share ideas and thoughts, as well as entertaining them!
Don’t forget to check out Tram 23:11 if you’re in Krakow this weekend, and come find out what happens when you die. It’s not as bad as you may think, apparently…
More info on the English Touring Theatre Company and their workshops here.