2023/2024 — Season 68
Tomasz Śpiewak, inspired by Maggie Nelson's book

The Argonauts

Directed by: Michał Borczuch
Interviews with annonymous interviewies were conducted by the actors of the show.
Première: 9. 12. 2023
  • Dramaturgy: Tomasz Śpiewak
  • Translation: Tatjana Jamnik
  • Set and costume design: Dorota Nawrot
  • Choreography: Dragana Alfirević
  • Music: Bartosz Dziadosz
  • Sound design: Bartosz Dziadosz, Sven Horvat
  • Lighting design: Robert Mleczko
  • Video design: Dušan Ojdanič
  • Speech advisor: Mateja Dermelj
  • Assistant director: Bor Ravbar
  • Stage manager: Urša Červ

Based on her biography, pregnancy and motherhood, American author Maggie Nelson wrote The Argonauts to tell the story of how different social mechanisms, laws and prejudices affect family and relationships. Nelson does not live in a traditional hetero-normative family. She is in a relationship with a trans person. For the author (and main character of the book), the most important thing is to start a family and give birth to a child. However, as it turns out, her perfectly normal need is neither in line with traditional heterosexual norms and family models, nor with the postulates of her feminist lesbian circles. The main character thus embarks on a difficult journey, where she overcomes her own prejudices, the prejudices of those around her and finally initiates a court trial. Her story shows how strong opinions and judgement from people around us influence our individual decisions. 

The performance is based on Maggie Nelson’s life story and on a research study carried out specifically for this purpose and involving atypical, non-normative couples and families in Slovenia. How do they live? How do new civil union laws affect their lives? What limitations exist in apparent democracy where everyone has the same rights? Is it possible to achieve tolerance that is completely inclusive? And finally, is there such a thing as the norm?

In the media

The director Michał Borczuch [constructed] a production that doesn’t try to convince with noise and excess but with strong content and simultaneous subtlety and tenderness, so the characters are more expressive, and it is the way of presenting the story that unveils their relationships and their tiny traits. We move so slowly that we can also feel their little fears and hidden frustrations through the small vignettes of dialogues, something that theatre only rarely succeeds in. […] You said you didn’t like something? Here you have it, face it, see what you’re even talking about. But with a clear goal: to help the audience and the general public understand, it tries to teach us to understand, to give us actual information. And the pieces of information it provides can only be those the most intimate and the most human ones. This is exactly what the director Michał Borczuch did: using Maggie Nelson’s text he put us into a family of a trans person in the process of transition and made us see it all through the eyes of the child of this family, that is, the one who is the most vulnerable and the most sensitive in these life stories, and at the same time the one has the right to ask, in our name – in the name of the audience – elementary questions that appear today in general public regarding trans persons and, of course, the entire LGBTQ+ community. […] Is it possible to create a good performance if it at the same time has such a strong explanatory and educational blueprint? Michał Borczuch managed this time, of course, also because of the outstanding cast that simply understands what it’s doing, why it is doing it and understands everything. And it shows.

Is the Argo, if we replace all of its parts, still the same ship? This is the question that the American author Maggie Nelson asks herself in her novel The Argonauts, a mix of autobiography, quotations and fiction, and at the same time asks herself if words are enough for us to describe with them all the changes, feelings and metamorphoses in the world and the people. This is the central theme of The Argonauts, the production by the Polish director Michał Borczuch, which, with dramaturgical sensitivity (Tomasz Śpiewak), intertwines three narrative levels. The life of Maggie Nelson (Daša Doberšek), who in the novel writes about her experience of her pregnancy and a partnership with a trans man, blends with the conversation between AI bot Alice (Damjana Černe) and Iggy (Voranc Mandić), a boy from the novel, and documentary material that the actors prepared for the production. The latter consists of interviews with different non-normative Slovenian families and couples. The first one is the story of two older cis-gays followed by the story of two lesbians with a child, and then an interview with a girl and her trans partner.
The production closes with a story of a Nomad, a character that most of all questions the form of family, monogamous relationships and responsibility that comes with them. […] The Nomad expresses his otherness as a position of power from which we can generate the will for social transformation.

The affable language of the production doesn’t wade into the usual rhetoric of criticism, moral haughtiness, emphasising social exclusion; the content of the life of its diverse organism is very insightful. It doesn’t lecture but rather narrates what it is like to be with oneself and with others, how very similar the matter of everybody’s yearning is: we are all in conscious and unconscious transitions, regardless of what biology has ascribed to us.

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Thank you

»Thank you to Mateja, the language consultant; Bor, the director's assistant; and Urša, the stage manager. Your contributions in transcribing and translating lengthy audio files and providing insights into the dialogues of interview scenes have been invaluable.« Tomasz Śpiewak