(Michael Coveney’s article article appeared in the Giardian, 8/22.)
Although he spent his final years in France, and has died aged 83 in Nice, Sławomir Mrozek was always recognised in Poland as one of the country's greatest dramatists. A consistent critic of state communism from his earliest years as a journalist and cartoonist, he had emigrated to France in 1963 and condemned Poland's part in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. His most famous play, Tango (1965), was a modern-day Hamlet, with the central figure, Arthur, an ironically conservative adversary of his parents' "avant-garde" lifestyle of promiscuity and complacency.
Its first British performance, translated by Nicholas Bethell, with an added polish by an unknown Tom Stoppard, and directed by an equally unknown Trevor Nunn for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre in May 1966, was a notable component of a European season under Peter Hall's artistic direction which included plays by Peter Weiss, Marguerite Duras and Friedrich Dürrenmatt, as well as the Peter Brook anti-Vietnam war production, US.