The play will receive its world premiere on 3 March, a month short to the day of the 81st anniversary of the first transport of Polish officer prisoners to the killing-ground in the Katyn forest in the Soviet of Belorussia in 1940.
The perpetrators were the Soviet NKVD (Security Police) under the direction of its chief Lavrenty Beria, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin, and the Politburo.
The play features the machinations of Stalin as he first reaps the result of his enforced economic plans – widespread starvation, in the Ukraine. Emboldened by his ‘success’, he then turns his experienced pack of NKVD shooters onto the Polish leadership after Nazi Germany attacks Poland from the west, driven by revenge and realpolitik.
This action resulted in the massacre of 21,857 Polish officers and élite, including those murdered in the Katyn forest. Many victims were found to be mummified when discovered by the Germans in 1943.
Characters in the play include Stalina the MC; a starving Ukrainian woman; Laventry Beria; the only female victim, pilot Janina Lewandowska; ‘Kombrig’ Zarubin, an NKVD Political Commissar; a Polish Major; Guinness World Record executioner Vassily Blokhin; forensic scientists, traitor Wanda Wasilewska; Stalina’s mum, and a boy who loved drawing with crayons.
The play itself takes the form of a tacky son et lumière show in the Katyn forest. The audience, like the executed prisoners, is bussed in for the proceedings. The event is punctuated with whiffs of nostalgic café culture, cabaret, old ‘78s, archival image and tech.
For Jim Daly, Katyn is a product of almost a life’s work from the time the murderous event was revealed to him in the early ‘70s in Adelaide by his Polish father-in-law, Robert Jankowski AK (Home Army).
“I have written a play which was workshopped at the National Playwrights Conference in 1983, a filmscript which I developed, and now this play as a component of my PhD research at Monash University,” said Daly.
“The focus of my research has been the understanding of a grotesque performative for Western theatre. The performative uses hybridity and excess in gesture and voice.”
“2021 is just over a hundred years since the Battle of Warsaw in which the Poles repelled a Soviet push to the Atlantic ports, and just over ten years since the crash of a Polish aircraft arriving at Katyn for a memorial service.”
“Ninety-six Polish leaders, including representatives of the Polish government, the President himself and his wife, were killed in the controversial accident.”
“The play is timely for these reasons and recent incursions of Russia into the borderlands of Ukraine which reflect the push for occupation and slaughter which occurred 81 years ago.”
“Katyn provides an opportunity for Poles and non-Poles alike to understand and feel the importance and horror of this massacre regardless of their background,” said Daly.
Writer & Director: Jim Daly Featuring: Carolyn Bock, Jim Daly Direction Consultant: Iain Sinclair Set Design: Peter Mumford Lighting Design: Jim Daly, Shane Grant Sound Design: Jim Daly Music: Scott Griffiths Videography: Tatiana Doroshenko
La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
Season: 3 – 7 March 2021 (preview: 2 Match)
Information and Bookings: www.lamama.com.au
Image: Jim Daly to feature in Katyn – photo by Darren Gill