Machine of Love and Death, Kassel 1987

Machine of Love and Death. Premiere


Machine of Love and Death

13 June 1987

Schauspielhaus, Kassel

Documenta 8


Machine of Love and Death. Cast


Cricotage by  Tadeusz Kantor
with actors, objects, marionettes, sculptures and machines



Museo Internazionale delle Marionette, Palermo


Part One
of Tadeusz Kantor
Year 1937

Maurice Maeterlinck
Translated by  Giovanni Raboni

QUEEN: Luigi Arpini
TINTAGILES, candidate to the throne: a Marionette
YGRAINE, BELLANGERE -Tintagiles’ sisters: Marionettes
AGLOVALE, major domo: Marionette
SERVANTS: Luigi Arpini, Jean-Marie Barotte, Loriano Della Rocca, Giovanni Battista Storti



Part Two
Half a century has passed
Year 1987

TINTAGILES (again) – a shepherd this time: Cristiano Pizzocheri
HIS FIANCEE: Arianna Pizzocheri
TWO GRAVEDIGGERS: Stanisław Rychlicki, Loriano Della Rocca
THREE SHREWISH WITCHES:  Jean-Marie Barotte, Veronica Rocca, Giovanni Battista Storni
SKELETON: a  Marionette



Author and director of the cricotage: Tadeusz Kantor
Assistant: Anna Halczak
Constructor  of  the Supermarionettes: Eugeniusz Bakalarz
Music: Saro Cosetino
Linguistic assistance: Ludmiła Ryba
Technical supervisor: Luigi Matiazzi


1st part of the performance Suspicious individual: Stanisław Rychlicki, Servants photo Cricoteka Archives

1st part of the performance Suspicious individual: Stanisław Rychlicki, Servants photo Cricoteka Archives


Machine of Love and Death , Milan, Kassel, Milan  1987
Museo Internazionale Delle Marionette, Palermo, Centro Ricerche Teatrali Teatro Dell’Arte, Milano, 26 May – 28 June         


        A year later Tadeusz Kantor could not stop thinking about his painful parting with constructivism and about surrealism, Dadaism and Bauhaus as the movements in art which influenced his artistic explorations. In Milan he told his students that he regarded  the process of teaching them as an opportunity to reconsider his attitude to those phenomena, to summarize them. At the same time he intended to account for the choices  he had made in his private life. He introduced a new idea into his art, which was to reappear on the stage and in paintings. That is why this thirty-minute performance is so important as the initial phase of the last stage of the artist’s work. “Machine of Love and Death” is the continuation of “Lekcje Mediolańskie” and summarizes Tadeusz Kantor’s meetings with the art of other artists. It is a tribute  to the art of the twentieth century. At the same time it is a very personal confession.
        In this cricotage the artists invites us to enter a mysterious and threatening world of Maeterlinck’s play “The Death of Tintagiles”. He comes back to his pre-war staging of this play  (“The Puppet Theatre of Tadeusz Kantor. 1937”), when he was fascinated with constructivism, abstraction and Bauhaus. He builds a wooden ring on the stage. It is half covered with a metal door. A warm voice from the loudspeaker is telling the story of  Tintagiles – a young prince. It is commented on  by the Servants of the Marionettes – the actors dressed in black who operate the wooden marionettes placed on movable chairs. The commentary weakens the seriousness of the performance and adds new shades of meaning to it. However, the author will not allow the actors to forget about the drama that should dominate on the stage. Their speech is interrupted by the sounds of alarming, rhythmical music, then the door opens and three constructivist Supermarionettes begin to move. The threatening atmosphere is intensified by the Suspicious Individual, who is  moving round and round and observing what is happening on the stage. After the third occurrence of this ominous interruption the Suspicious Individual  gives the Servants long wooden sticks. Now they are going to use them to operate the marionettes. (This scene looks as if it came from Bauhaus). However, the cruel Queen wins. Her appearance kills Tintagiles’ siblings and the dedicated servant Agloval. She imprisons the prince in  . . . a canvas suitcase. The Queen turns out to be a figure wearing the costume of the Water-Hen from Cricot 2 Theatre.


From: Halczak, Anna. Ostatnie cricotages Tadeusza Kantora [The last cricotages of Tadeusz Kantor]; Didaskalia. December 2000.


Machine of Love and Death


When Maeterlinck’s play ends, the time perspective changes. The two Servants of the marionettes of Tintagiles’ sisters approach the metal door. They open it and find a Shepherd there. The time of the Holy Abstraction is over. This is the beginning of the second part of the performance: Half a century has passed. 1987. You Know What Kind of Machine . Lyrical music provokes the appearance of two Undertakers wearing tricorns and black cloaks adorned with golden stripes. They are pushing a canvas hobby-horse on wheels. The figures from the nostalgic paintings by Wojtkiewicz put the Shepherd Tintagiles on the hobby-horse. They go around the stage. From the opposite part of the stage comes a funeral procession consisting of three Shrewish Witches pulling a cart with a Bride and singing an Italian folk song of lamentation. The parts of Tintagiles and His Fiancée are played by small children. The processions walking in two opposite directions meet several times on the way without stopping. At these short moments  Bridegroom and Bride look at one another with longing. The procession is interrupted  by a message from the loudspeaker: everybody is ordered to leave the stage. The Undertakers bring a black package. They place it on the stage. The Machinists of Love and Death put lighted candles next to it. Tadeusz Kantor, who has been sitting near the stage and discreetly regulating the rhythm of the performance, comes to the central part of the stage now. He is not alone, though. He is being observed by the Suspicious Individual – the only character who appears in both parts of the performance. The machine of love and death, operated by the Machinists, displays two figures placed on the opposite points of its wheel. The appearance of the Manikin of a Handsome Young Man is accompanied by the rhythm of loud music, which is supplemented with a lyrical tune when another character – the Skeleton – appears. The author is slowly uncovering the secret hidden in the black emballage. It is a naked young woman – an Unknown Model – indifferent to the machine of love and death and its functioning. The artist disappears  at the back of the stage. He leaves the spectators moved by the discovery they have made.


From: Halczak, Anna. Ostatnie cricotages Tadeusza Kantora [The last cricotages of Tadeusz Kantor]; Didaskalia. December 2000.


2nd part of the performance Shepherd - Cristiano Pizzocheri Two gravediggers: Stanisław Rychlicki, Loriano Della Rocca; photo Maurizio Buscarino

2nd part of the performance Shepherd – Cristiano Pizzocheri Two gravediggers: Stanisław Rychlicki, Loriano Della Rocca; photo Maurizio Buscarino


The rehearsals for this cricotage lasted for a fortnight. Before they began, the Supermarionettes of the Servants were prepared in Cracow, as well as the metal door and the ring of the machine. Giovanni Rabboni translated Maeterlinck’s play for Tadeusz Kantor. The artist worked with Italian actors, who had participated in two productions in Cricot 2 Theatre. He cast his actor Stanisław Rychlicki as the Suspicious Individual. The role of one of the Shrewish Witches was played by a student from the School in Milan. The children appeared at the end of the rehearsals. The performance was prepared for the opening of the Documenta Festival in Kassel. Everything was prepared simultaneously when the play was in rehearsal: the text, the costumes, the music (Saro Cosetino), and partly the scenery. The central idea of the performance was frequently modified. These were two weeks of hard work for the actors, the technicians and for the artist himself. The most difficult problem from the technical point of view was caused by the chairs which were to move “spontaneously” at the end of the first part of the performance. To the artist’s annoyance, it took several days to prepare the necessary mechanisms. When – the day before the premiere – his demands were finally met, the final effect was still not satisfying. Tadeusz Kantor spent a lot of time with Stanisław Rychlicki, working on the character of the Suspicious Individual. The character which required the greatest number of changes was the Unknown Model. When the play was rehearsed in Milan, the Unknown Model was the Soldier from “Wielopole, Wielopole” played by a woman, now standing with a cross inside the ring of the machine. During the premiere in Kassel the Unknown model appeared on the stage in black tricot. She came from the audience and was told by Tadeusz Kantor to sit on his chair in the ring. She contemplated the functioning of the machine of love and death indifferently, smoking a cigarette. After his return to Milan, after several performances he finally decided that she should be in emballage.
        “Machine of Love and Death” is the beginning of the “Theatre of Love and Death” – the last stage of the work of Tadeusz Kantor. The cricotage was created during the rehearsals for the play “I Shall Never Return”, the premiere of which took place one year later. In the performance the Unknown Model changes into a dead Bride, who marries Tadeusz Kantor (his manikin) –  black emballage covers all the figures and objects in Cricot 2 Theatre.


From: Halczak, Anna. Ostatnie cricotages Tadeusza Kantora [The last cricotages of Tadeusz Kantor]; Didaskalia. December 2000.


Translated by: Monika Markiewicz

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