The Martyrdom of Piotr O’Hey
The Free Stage Braunschweig, under the direction of Andreas Hartmann, rehearsed the play “The Martyrdom of Piotr O’Hey.” Inspired by the Polish writer and playwright Slawomir Mrozek, the amateur actors performed the play on January 14, 2024, at Brunsviga. Despite the satire’s origin, the Polish playwright’s commentary remains as relevant as ever. Perhaps it is even more timely today than ever before. Despite all the enthusiasm and commitment, the performance unfortunately lacked pep, and the plot may have been somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining afternoon, and the actors’ enthusiasm was evident.
The Martyrdom of the Audience
Unfortunately, the theater afternoon begins with a martyrdom for the audience. We learned about the event through the program booklet from Brunsviga, which advertised free admission. There was no mention of registration or seat reservation. However, when the doors to the hall opened, suddenly it was announced that only registered guests could take their seats. This caused great confusion among those waiting, as the desired registration seemed to be known only to the relatives and acquaintances of the actors.
The lady at the entrance remained steadfast, and a discussion ensued. Some guests reacted somewhat impatiently. After all, there were only a limited number of seats. At the same time, a quite substantial number of interested people had gathered at Brunsviga. When another member of the ensemble arrived and wanted to let the rest of the waiting crowd into the hall, confusion reigned on both sides. Eventually, all visitors found a seat, and the play could begin.
The plot of the play is quickly told. The protagonist, family man Piotr O’Hey, sits comfortably on his sofa, reading a newspaper. Around him, his slightly hysterical wife circles, feeling neglected. On the other hand, there is the vain sister-in-law, spending the Sunday afternoon applying makeup on a chair.
Piotr endures his wife’s complaints with stoic calmness. Even when his son storms into the living room with a toy gun, shouting, “Catch the terrorists,” the family father remains unruffled.
However, the peace is short-lived. A bureaucrat disrupts the afternoon calm by announcing that there is a tiger in Piotr’s bathroom. Then things escalate: First, the tax office wants to impose a tiger tax on Piotr. A representative from the Academy of Sciences wants to study the tiger and its behavior. However, he is more interested in the sister-in-law than the wild cat. Finally, a circus director and a secretary from the Foreign Office appear. The latter urges Piotr to allow an Indian Maharaja, on a state visit, to hunt the tiger in the bathroom.
As if that weren’t enough, Piotr’s wife goes berserk and performs the tiger dance in an animal print outfit with a feather boa. The life of the quiet family man, who just wants to read his newspaper, is completely turned upside down. “Yesterday,” he summarizes, “I read the newspaper with my family at home. Now they are here at home, and I am no longer. Unrest has arrived; time is not favoring me.”
And the moral of the story is, don’t read your newspaper on Sundays. Probably today, it’s no longer the newspaper that produces the strangest stories. Now there are social media that broadcast all sorts of bizarre things into the world. The more viral the narratives become, the more embellished they get. And finally, something emerges that is claimed by everyone; science, politics, public interest, and the state, in short, the whole world. No wonder Piotr hopes for better times at the end of the play.