The figure of the pope, the figure of the Vatican with its centuries of tradition, with its ceremonies, costumes and rituals are an exceptionally spectacular show. The passing away of JPII was a real media treat for the mass audience and the world gave it excessive attention. Although, from looking back, it seems that the phenomenon of death itself remained unnoticed.
While working on the set design concept, I was inspired by the idea of absence and evanescence in a supposedly obvious and over-represented reality. My vision of the Vatican is founded on the idea of phantasm or mirage. A few hundred years old architecture of the Vatican chapel, perfectly known and photographed, seems to vanish, almost entirely absent. Through the use of transparent wire mesh, the domed chamber disappears before our eyes. What is left of a man who lived on a pedestal? A few populist slogans, many monuments, paintings, souvenirs in the form of fridge magnets. Only the external varnish remained.
Deprived of the privacy and intimacy of his passing, the pope is put on public to serve as a curiosity and attraction for the mass viewer.
“The Death of John Paul II” is much more than a theatrical performance. It is a performative event that aims to bring the spectators closer to the stabuized in our western culture experience of death.
The death of John Paul II
Alan Al Murtatha
Choir: Piotr Bróździak, Michał Mierzejewski, Witold Nowak, Marian Panek, Robert Pucek, Paweł Szajek, Kazimierz Zalewski, Lech Zydorek
Theatre company: Teatr Polski in Bielsko-Biała
Month & year of production: October 2021
Set designer: Agata Skwarczyńska
Light designer: Agata Skwarczyńska
Director: Jakub Skrzywanek
Dramaturgy: Paweł Dobrowolski
Music composer: Karol Nepelski
Costume designer: Paula Grochola
Choreography: Aga Kryst
Photo: Magda Hueckel