Daniel Rycharski about the set design for the play "SPARTACUS. Love in the time of plague"

Three large rectangular lamps illuminate the set design. Metal enclosures, straw, hospital equipment.

When I was asked to create the set design for the play SPARTACUS. Love in the time of plague, I wasn't sure if I could do it. I rarely go to the theater, and when I do, I usually come out of it bored. However, what convinced me to get involved in this project was the director, Jakub Skrzywanek (and his previous works), the theme of the play, and the fact that this piece has little in common with traditional theater.

The starting point and inspiration for creating the set design was my own project titled 'Yoke,' which consists of metal compositions welded from partitions originating from pigsties. This work, close to minimalism and abstraction, tells the story of profound changes in the countryside surrounding the agricultural production process. It also speaks to the ease of turning someone else's experience into an aesthetic object, usually observed by those whose lives and work it depicts.

The same material, metal crates from real barns obtained from farmers in the Mazovia and West Pomeranian regions, served me in building the main part of the set: the wall of the child psychiatric ward. The floor was covered with straw, and medical furniture and objects coexist with agricultural items like pitchforks and buckets. The association with the oppression of animals in industrial agriculture aligns with the descriptions of patients in child psychiatric wards that we became acquainted with during the work on the play.

In the second, much more optimistic part of the performance, the fundamental creative material for me was the relationships between people. I wanted to create, even for a moment, a new community from seemingly very distant social worlds: the Lambda Szczecin association of LGBTQ+ individuals, students from the Academy of Art in Szczecin, and the Rural Housewives Association from the village of Stobno.

The first stage of collaboration involved the guests from Stobno visiting the theater, engaging in discussions and sharing experiences. The next meeting took place in the village community center in Stobno, where I led workshops in the spirit of a new folk art. During these workshops, we collaboratively designed three pairs of characters: a woman and a harvest man, often encountered during harvest festivals throughout Poland. The difference is that our characters are shown as same-sex couples. They will serve as the background for the final scene of the play: a performative queer wedding. The Rural Housewives Association also prepared a heart-shaped harvest altar made of hundreds of handcrafted crepe paper flowers.

The wedding ceremony of a same-sex couple, in the setting created at the intersection of seemingly distant worlds, becomes an affirmative expression of every person's right to love.