Wrocław Mime Theatre was founded in 1956 as Mime Studio at Dramatyczny (Drama) Theatre in Wrocław. The founder and artistic director of the group was Henryk Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski’s creative individuality and defined art vision brought dozens of young and talented atrists to the group. The first group consisted of Elżbieta Jaroszewicz, Ałła Laskowska, Irena Szymkiewicz, Stanisław Brzozowski, Jerzy Fornal, Zdzisław Kapuściński, Anatol Krupa, Janusz Pieczuro and others.
“When the idea of the theatre came about, I was around thirty and I was someone who wanted to do something, not even to stand out compared to others, but simply to try himself”. And it cannot be denied that every premiere materialized his own specific visions.
Programme I premiered on 4 November 1956 at Polski (Polish) Theatre in Wrocław.
The Programme included: Skazany na życie, The Hunchback of Notre Dane by Victor Hugo, The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, Bajka o Murzynku i Złotej Królewnie. Tomaszewski himself considers this Programme as part of his “storyline” period (1956–1961), when most of the inspirations came from literature.
In Programme II Tomaszewski worked further on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Overcoat, for which the theatre was awarded at the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow (1957). Programme II included also En passant, Nativity Play, Kabbalah, Orpheus in search of Euridice.
On 1 January 1958 the studio obtained a grant, was transformed into a professional theatre and its name was changed to the City Theatre of Mime . One year later, on 26 January 1959, the theatre was nationalized and transformed into the Wrocław Pantomime Theatre under the artistic direction of Henryk Tomaszewski. The individual character of the theatre was legitimized in this manner.
The unique character of the Wrocław Mime Theatre results from the director’s individual vision and programmes, where movement is treated not as an equivalent of the word, but as a synthesis of experiences and impressions, making the theatre one of its kind in the world.
Already Programme I included characteristic features of Tomaszewski’s theatre, which formed the Polish school of mime. By introducing elements of group acting, intentionality and psychological motivation of the characters, Tomaszewski’s actors are complete in their roles. Breaking with the convention of French classic pantomime and collaborating with the most outstanding artists (such as Jadwiga Przeradzka, Aleksander Jędrzejewski, Zofia de Ines, Władysław Wigura, Franciszek Starowieyski, Krzysztof Pankiewicz, Andrzej Majewski) enhanced formal experiments and construction of spectacular visual and music design.
In the next programme Tomaszewski departs from literature, seeking inspiration in the roots and forms of the theatre (including theatre of the East, commedia dell’Arte), silent movies, psychology and in mere nature of movement itself: its dynamics and texture.