The constant Prince
Translation for Theater Basel by Susanne Lange. Polish translation by Juliusz Słowacki. Text version by Tomasz Śpiewak
Calderón’s play «The Constant Prince» inspired Goethe to say: «If poetry is ever completely lost to the world, it could be restored again from this play». Schiller was inspired to write his «Maid of Orléans» by the martyr’s death of Calderón’s prince Fernando and Kleist made the conflict that Calderón had already articulated between obedience and free will, honour and vanity, fear of death and zest for life the core of his play «Prince Friedrich of Homburg».
After a victorious battle the Portuguese prince Fernando allows his enemy Muley to live because he has been moved by his love of Princess Phoenix. In the battle that follows Fernando is himself taken prisoner and will be released in exchange for the city of Cueta that has been captured by the Christians. However, Fernando rejects this deal. He would rather die than hand a Christian city over to the Muslims without a fight. Muley’s attempt to secretly release the man who saved his life fails along with all other attempts to avoid Fernando’s chosen martyr’s death.
In his play Calderón confronts rational and reasoned thinking with radical religious belief. And he links his constant prince’s crisis of conscience directly with the fate of an entire city. The fact that the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco continues to cause tensions between the two countries to this day shows that Calderón’s play has lost none of its topicality.
This was the play with which Polish theatre guru Jerzy Grotowski established the worldwide reputation of his «poor theatre». The multiple award-winning director Michał Borczuch who was born in Krakow in 1979 has therefore made a very deliberate choice in selecting this piece for his debut at Theater Basel. Borczuch is one of Poland’s leading theatre directors and in 2017 was awarded the prestigious «Paszport Polityki» theatre prize.
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