język polskijęzyk angielski


Female cast
Male cast
Original language of the play
Polish premiere
8th December 2013, Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, Cracow, dir. Paweł Świątek; the play has been staged again in 2019 in Teatr Polski in Wrocław, directed by Katarzyna Łęcka
available English, German
Original title
Smutki tropików

Pakuła's play Tristestropiques in 2014 received the Polish Gdynia Drama Award, Poland's most prestigious playwright's prize, awarded since 2008. The starting point and inspiration for the drama was Claude Lévi-Strauss's canonical (and now somewhat age-old) work Tristes Tropiques. The French anthropologist studied Native American culture in Brazil in the 1930s. Once read as a voice against colonialism, his text is sometimes perceived by contemporary critics as colonialist precisely. This ambiguous and ethically questionable attitude of Westerners towards "exotic" countries and cultures that fascinate them is portrayed by Mateusz Pakula in his drama. He borrows the book's title from Lévi-Strauss and creates a story about modern nomads - backpackers - whose life goal is to travel.

The author brings to life six nameless characters who spin tales of their travel adventures, filled with extreme experiences and stories. Thus, the stories are as much about poverty and violence plaguing the countries visited by them, as about the European senseless pursuit of new experiences. Pakuła's characters are dark tourism aficionados, a travelling style which involves visiting places afflicted by death and war. Of particular intrest are such attractions as arms fairs, confrontation with grizzly bears, elaborate torture or even pedophilic rape. In their own words:

"Chernobyl is a little too populated lately almost like Auschwitz but I’ve heard that the experience is fun-fucking-tastic. I’d like to go to Fukushima but you know. Fuck it must be really fricking cool there. But I’ll probably go to Rwanda or Bosnia sooner. Pol Pot’s camps are close and are supposedly righteous. We’ll see how’s the dosh."

Tristestropiques is a striking diagnosis of the reality around us, including contemporary (perhaps less obvious) manifestations of European domination and colonialism. Its protagonists are devourers of "hardcore content." Suspended between traveling and consuming the content provided to them by the media or the Internet. Thirsty for images of famine, rape, war conflicts.
Using the tool of storytelling, Mateusz Pakuła constructs a peculiar community of European nomads, a distorting mirror of contemporary reality. A group of perpetually insatiable people for whom exotic tourism has become a pursuit of extreme sensations. The question is, what deficiencies, needs and longings does this voyeurism satisfy for them (and perhaps also for us?)? What it means to look at the East through the translucent, European curtains? Looking for an answer and a way out of this apocalyptic impasse, Mateusz Pakuła says in his characteristic ironic way:

"There are two options two ways out. To read the whole Houellebecq and slump into shifting yet quite flat sands of a hipster desperation. Or to mass convert to Buddhism and become a sexy female yogi."

You can, of course, also simply close the aforementioned curtains.

  • The German translation of Tristestropiques has been published by KLAK Verlag in a Polish drama anthology. More details here.