Tribute to
Henryk Tomaszewski

Henryk Tomaszewski, Fot. Archives WROCLAW PANTOMIME THEATRE
Wrocław Pantomime Theatre of HenrykTomaszewski

"It seemed to me that through movement (...) one can express things and reach a certain sphere of human reality that eludes both ballet and theatre of the spoken word."   Henryk Tomaszewski (20.11.1919 - 23.09.2001)

Tomaszewski's own words, in which the movement is seen as the greatest praise of life, most fully reflects the essence of the artist's projects, whose ideas are still alive today thanks to the existence und activities of the Wroclaw Mime Theatre.

The Wroclaw Pantomime Theatre celebrated In November the 94th birthday of Henryk Tomaszewski -an outstanding mime artist, choreographer, director, stage manager and the founder and director of the Wrocław Mime Theatre, as well as the scriptwriter for every performance. He is deserved for the history of European theater of pantomime, precursor of teamwork. The uniqueness of his artistic performance goes hand in hand with the uniqueness of his thoughts about art and life.

As a child of a German - Polish family and thereby acquired bilingualism he could move freely in both cultures. Henryk Tomaszewski learned after the Second World War in Dramatic Studio from Iwo Gall and the ballet studio of Feliks Parnell in Krakow. He began his stage career as dancer of the Wrocław Opera. He became a soloist at the Wrocław Opera, where he appeared in memorable leading roles. In addition, he was the Opera's choreographer for dramatic productions and developed several solo dances for the stage.

However, his roles in classical ballet did not fulfill Tomaszewski's artistic aspirations. "It seemed to me that through movement (...) one can express things and reach a certain sphere of human reality that eludes both ballet and theatre of the spoken word". From the beginning, Tomaszewski's intent was to create a new kind of theatre based on group pantomime. In 1956, he founded his own centre called Studium Pantomimy. One year later, he and the Studium won a group prize and the gold medal at the World Youth Festival in Moscow for their mime drama of Nikolai Gogol's The Overcoat. In 1959, the group acquired the status of a professional theatre and began to gain international acclaim as the Wrocław Pantomime Theatre.

Beginning with illustrative pantomime based on plots taken from literature, this path led to autonomous full-length productions. Most of his performances were influenced by the world literature : "In art I'm interested in those situations when it seems to us that there is a definite solution , we already know everything, but in the meantime turns up the possibility of another point , another solution" he said about his choice of material . Their first productions were comprised of studies and sketches, including . In 1970, Tomaszewski moved from these miniature forms to his first full-length pantomime production based on one single theme. This was Faust Departs based on Johann Wolfgang Goethe's work. Other important performances included Gilgamesh (1968), based on the Sumerian epic poem, which offered reflections on friendship, loyalty, resourcefulness and courage. In addition, there was also the character of Frank Wedekin in Empress Filissa's Menagerie (1972), given a grotesque interpretation; The Killing Game by Eugene Ionesco (1973),The Dispute (1978), which transposed a philosophical and literary Rococo discourse into a pantomime image (the subject of the dispute, taken from the work of Pierre a Marivaux, is the age-old inconstancy of emotions in male-female relations); Hamlet - Irony and Mourning, based on themes from William Shakespeare (1979).

Henryk Tomaszewski shaped his group for forty-five years in a conscious and determined manner. He was the group's best actor, appearing on stage until 1963, as well as stage manager, author and choreographer. Together with the group, he created a unique pantomime theatre. He replaced words with movement, capturing thoughts and abstractions, embodying non-verbal dreams and imaginings. Creating modern body language, he drew on methods ranging from the ascetic to the Baroque, but in a communicative and precise way. He introduced the art of mime into the sphere of philosophy. In his theatre, concepts drove the on-stage action. He was inspired not only by the art of dance and movement, but also by literature and painting, and the great world myths, such as Faust, Orpheus, the Minotaur, Pan Twardowski, King Arthur, the Prodigal Son and Gilgamesh. Henryk Tomaszewski's last two productions were staged in 1999: Tragiczne gry, by Ferdinand Brückner - the story of a woman who harnesses all her energy to battle against the passing of time, unable to tend to her own humanity, and Traktat o marionetkach / On the Marionette Theatre, based on a work by Heinrich Kleist, a beautiful and wise essay on the subject of movement and its role in life.

He received numerous & significant awards for his valuable artistic experimentation in the production,for the direction, staging and choreography. 1957 he and the Studium won a group prize and the gold medal at the World Youth Festival in Moscow for their mime drama of Nikolai Gogol's The Overcoat. In the year 1999 received Henryk Tomaszewski Award of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage for lifetime achievement in the field of theatre and in the year 2000 - the Konrad Swinarski Award for lifetime achievement.

The task of pantomime, as Tomaszewski liked to stress, is the affirmation of humanity - the affirmation of life."Man is the most beautiful being in all creation, man is a reflection of the cosmos. In movement, man is manifested in his most pure form. His inner and spiritual life and movement comprise one whole. When man is in motion, he is striving towards something, and gets lost. It is that being lost which is the most beautiful and fascinating of all. The result is not as important as the time spent in motion, because we all know that Icarus fell. But how did this happen? That is what I am interested in."

Tomaszewski's art, in its philosophy, is deeply humanistic. It stands for life and joy, addresses the subject of injustice, and of people who are persecuted by a world of evil objects and powers, pushed to the very bottom. Above all, however, his art is one that speaks of love: ideal and sensual, tragic and joyful - love that is complete both when it is realised, as well as when it remains an unattainable dream." (Andrzej Hausbrandt). He will stay in our hearts for ever.