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Play in Polish theatre accused of inciting hate

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 22.02.2017 08:45
A legal institute has asked the Council of Europe, an international human rights organisation, to react to “incitements of hate” in a controversial play which has premiered in Poland.
A scene from "The Curse". Photo: Powszechny.com/Magda Hueckel.A scene from "The Curse". Photo: Powszechny.com/Magda Hueckel.

The Ordo Iuris institute, which says on its website that it protects legal order and marginalised people, has also offered free legal support to spectators whose “religious beliefs were offended”.

Croatian director Oliver Frljić's play, called “The Curse” – an adaptation of Polish writer Stanisław Wyspiański's 1899 play of the same name – has been widely criticised since its premiere in Warsaw's Teatr Powszechny on Saturday.

Critics have slammed the play for scenes in which guns are made out of religious symbols and sex acts are performed on the leader of the Catholic church, who is also portrayed as about to be executed.

A top Polish official from the Catholic Church said the cross, a Christian symbol, is violated during performances, while insults directed at the late, Polish-born leader of the Church, Pope John Paul II, are "especially painful for Poles".

The head of the Polish prime minister's office, Beata Kempa, said: "If there are performances which incite violence then we should loudly say that this is not allowed in our country".

Meanwhile, about a hundred nationalists gathered outside the theatre on Tuesday in a protest against the play, which they claim offends Polish traditions and Christian values.

Sex and violence

The theatre's description of the performance warns that the show is satirical and includes sex and violence.

According to Ordo Iuris, the play is “intentionally provocative” and “unceremoniously deals with constitutionally-protected values, good taste and the rights of people of faith”.

It said that parts of the play “which could reasonably be interpreted as calling for the organisation of the assassination of the leader of the governing party” are “especially disturbing”.

However, the theatre has denied that during the show there is a collection of money for the murder of Jarosław Kaczyński.

The theatre also said that creative liberties are protected under Poland's constitution, and that the play should be considered as a whole, suggesting that critics of the controversial scenes had taken them out of context.

Frljić's “The Curse” explores the division of Church and state. It looks specifically at the influence of religion on people who declare themselves independent of the Church, but also on those who identify with Catholicism, Teatr Powszechny said.

It also tests the extent to which modern drama practices self-censorship in a bid to avoid “violating religious freedoms”, the theatre added.

The play is based on an 1899 drama about a drought in a small country town, which the local church leader said is God's vengeance for the sins of the villagers.

But the villagers blame the drought on the priest, who has two children and lives with their mother. Wyspiański's play was considered risqué when it was first performed. (vb/pk)

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