Jerzy Grotowski on the notion of poor theatre

27 novembre 1969
04m 52s
Ref. 00064


Summary :

The Polish director Jerzy Grotowski defines his theory of "poor theatre": the Theatre that values the body of the actor and its relation with the spectator and does away with costumes, decor and music. The interview is punctuated with extracts from a rehearsal of the show Evangile.

Media type :
Broadcast date :
27 novembre 1969
Source :
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Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), producer, teacher and the Polish Theatre director. He trained as an actor in Krakow in the early 1950s before studying production. In 1962 in Opole, the Theatre of 13 Rows that he had managed with Ludwig Flaszen since 1959 became the Laboratory Theatre and moved to Wroclaw in 1965.

He developed the concept of "poor theatre", where the play and actor's technique, inherited from Stanislavski, focused on costumes, decors and lighting. The relationship between player and spectator, which is alternately invited to dine inDoctor Faustus(based on Marlowe in 1963), or to bear witness toThe Constant Prince's ordeal (based on Caderon in 1965), always holding a central role. The actor's research is based on body work that aims to rid themselves of automatic reactions in order to get to the character's essence within themselves.

From 1970, Grotowski abandoned production to concentrate on researching and showing his art throughout the world. In 1986 in Pontedera, Italy, he created a experimental centre which still bears his name to this day.

Claire Libbra


Jean-Marie Drot
If you'd rather have a general conversation, I'd love to start with exactly what I have seen.
Jerzy Grotowski
Jean-Marie Drot
And to start for example with the little Fame, presented by 2 of your actresses, for this show that you are going to create from the Gospel texts. What strikes you straight away, is the sobriety, by that I mean that you have removed, everything which for us seems to form part of the theatre. You have removed the scenery, you have removed the make up, you have removed the tape recorder, you have removed...everything, except the theatre, you could say.
Water noises
Jerzy Grotowski
We have been searching for that for a long time, what is the sense of the theatre, because, when we observe the situation, of the theatre compared with cinema and television, we have considered that many of the purely technical methods, that are still now Because, in television, in cinema, we can make much better arrangements, change the place, the action, the location of the action, transform the actor via costumes, special effects, artificial snow, artificial wind, everything, make up. All that can be prepared, in cinema or in television, all that can be prepared much better than in the theatre.
Jerzy Grotowski
So we have eliminated step by step, the different methods as you say of the theatre. That is, we have eliminated the music at the start for example. Today, we've eliminated the music which was recorded on film or tape, yes, or which was produced by an orchestra or something like that, but which in the end was independent of the show, despite it illustrating the show. And now, we have discovered that the actors' voices can create another type of music.
Jerzy Grotowski
And then, we also eliminated the scenery, everything, everything, everything, and we discovered that, in the end the actor who uses only objects which are close, with which he can operate, that he can arrange a much stronger transformation for the spectator with just these simple means, these technical means.
Noises and silence
Jean-Marie Drot
Which attracts you to what you call, the poor theatre.
Jerzy Grotowski
Yes, the poor theatre, the bare theatre, after all that which is not theatre itself. You can say that, what is the rest? There remains only the living man, the living man, that is the actor, who can transform himself for the others, the witnesses, and who can find a sort of relationship with these others, with the spectators. In the end all that is being done now, is the naked man, this actor. All that can occur at the same time, music, sculpture, scenery, all that...
Jean-Marie Drot
But in the actor
Jerzy Grotowski
In the actor, in his body, there is the entire theatre, you can say but against the dreams about total theatre, that is, the total theatre through the total actor.