Gustaw Holoubek: Leading actor in Polish theatre
Monday 28 April 2008
His roles were epoch-making. Yet, whether he played Napoleon or Hamlet, Alceste in Molière's Misanthrope, or Woland in the television adaptation of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, Gustaw Holoubek invariably remained himself.
The actor who became the living symbol of Polish theatre was born in Kraków, where his father, a Czech, had settled after the First World War. In 1939, aged 16, he fought in the September Campaign. Then – after a spell in a Nazi concentration camp – he joined a clandestine theatre group and entered the Kraków Dramatic Studio. He made his stage début in Stefan Flukowski's Odysseus Among the Phaecians; his first film role was in Wanda Jakubowska's hard-line revolutionary Soldier of Victory (1953).
Holoubek's first Warsaw appearance was in Ugo Betti's Corruption in the Palace of Justice (1958). His stage roles served to articulate his views on ethics and aesthetics; he could impart the inexpressible and mesmerise with silence.
When he played Gustaw-Konrad in Kazimierz Dejmek's staging of Forefathers' Eve, Adam Mickiewicz's great national romantic drama, in 1967, performance went beyond art, and made political history. The show was seen to be anti-government and anti-Russian, and its suppression triggered student demonstrations and numerous arrests, heralding the March events of 1968. He reprised the role 20 years later in the screen adaptation by Tadeusz Konwicki (Lawa, 1989).
Appointed director of the Dramatic Theatre in Warsaw (1971-82), and chairman of the Polish Actors' Union (1972-80), Holoubek entered politics when he was elected to the Polish parliament, the Sejm, in 1976. Renouncing his mandate in 1981 following martial law, he joined in the actors' boycott of state-run media. He performed in churches, and was often attacked in the Communist press. In 1989, he was elected to the Senate from the Solidarity list (until 1991), sat on President Lech Walesa's Council for Culture (1992-93), and was appointed professor at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw. Since 1997 he had been artistic director of the Ateneum theatre in Warsaw.
Holoubek clocked up more than 50 cinema and television roles in his time. He appeared in the cult films of Wojciech Has, playing Don Pedro Velasquez in The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), and Doctor Gotard in The Hour-Glass Sana torium (1973); and in the films of Tadeusz Konwicki: Salto (1967) and the bewilderingly oneiric How Far, How Near (1972).
Though he excelled in both fields, the stage was his natural habitat. The theatre, for Holoubek, was "a magic place", the realm of poetry and artistry, where reality was transformed, existential dilemmas played out, and the human condition laid bare.
Gustaw Holoubek , actor: born Kraków, Poland 21 April 1923; married first Danuta Kwiatkowska (one daughter), second Maria Wachowiak (one daughter), third 1973 Magdalena Zawadzka (one son); died Warsaw 6 March 2008.
Animals found with 'puncture holes the size of a human finger'
Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
- 4 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 5 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Sarah Vine on Jack Monroe being a lesbian mother: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
Michael Brown shooting: Ten things we know – or know better – now the Ferguson grand jury's work is over
Ferguson riots: The most powerful images to emerge from protests over Michael Brown killing
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...
£40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...
£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Systems Manager ...
£25000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, VC-funded star...