The first premiere of “The Tempest” in Yiddish took place in Łódź in 1938 in the Folks un Jugnt-Teater; in 1939 it was played in front of the Warsaw public. It was hailed, by both Jewish and Polish critics, as a great success of Jewish theatre in Poland. A success which fills with optimism and faith in a common Polish-Jewish world, despite the increasing number of anti-Semitic acts being played out beyond the stage and the growing strength of the Fascists. Caliban’s words “Burn but his books”, which, in Schiller’s interpretation were a symbol of the new barbarianism, today sound like a portent of the Holocaust. After the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the idea of staging Shakespeare in Yiddish in Poland was never returned to.
Today, 82 years after the premiere of “The Tempest” in Łódź, we are interested to see how it will sound in a Poland divided by internal disputes, and whether Yiddish will become a mega-warning about the demons of history repeating itself.
In the production, apart from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in Yosef Goldberg’s translation into Yiddish, use is also made of fragments of the Ringelblum Archive and “The lamentations of Jeremiah” and “The song of songs”.
This is an astonishing production with a powerful message and strong performances, entering into a dialogue between the almost twenty-year-old Krzysztof Warlikowski production of “The Tempest”, which undertook an attempt to forgive the sins of the truly guilty, painting a drama full of sadness, in which only a tiny flame of hope flickered. Neć has gone further, not limiting himself to only suggesting an analogy between ‘The Tempest’ and the Holocaust and to attempting to deepen it, but giving “The Tempest” the sanction of the Holocaust, and filling the Holocaust with the spirit of “The Tempest”. / Tomasz Milkowski, trybuna.info
In this production there appears the motif of the Holocaust of the Jewish nation, but it does not write itself into a schematic rendering. This tragedy resonates to the full but this history transcends the universally undertaken motif of anti-Semitism, present also in this staging, in order to gain a universal quality. / Katarzyna Wojtysiak-Wawrzyniak, teatrologia.info