Yvonne, Prinzessin von Burgund (Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy)by Witold Gombrowicz
by Witold Gombrowicz
«Let’s say someone comes up to you and tells you you’re such and such a person, tells you the worst, says the most appalling things, things that could kill someone, absolutely destroy them, leave them speechless and lifeless. And then you say: Yes, that’s what I’m like, it’s true, but … But so what?»
– With these words Prince Philip attempts to break down the reserve of his new fiancée Yvonne, but they also describe the essential plot of this first play by the Polish author Witold Gombrowicz. Though written in 1935, it was not discovered for the stage until the 1960s, when it was primarily interpreted as an example of the theatre of the absurd. Because Gombrowicz’s title character defies all characterisation: she is silent, putting up with every humiliation apparently unmoved and eventually swallowing every barb that the royal court serves up to her with murderous intent. The fact that the Prince brought her to the court as a snub to his parents and the entire ossified court, in order to declare their mode of rule over is swiftly forgotten as soon he too becomes one of her tormentors.
As Gombrowicz barely outlines Yvonne’s identity, the narrow-mindedness, anger and violence used to exclude her is unmasked all the more clearly. In this play, which he himself described as a comedy, Gombrowicz also reflects the initial stages of totalitarianism and mechanisms of oppression evident in his time, which the young Polish director Ahmad Ali (previously Wiktor Bagiński) reinterprets for the present.
«Yvonne is a victim. But she is also an observer. Her silence is not passive, she is fighting for HUMANITY and this is why she becomes the object of mockery and taunts. For the aristocrats in the play, names and background are all that matter, they reduce people to this. For Yvonne, however, life itself is the only thing that matters. But above all she is the personified reminder that if we try to trade in love, we will end up buying hate.» Ahmad Ali