Critical Context

The Police served to establish Mroek’s reputation as a playwright in Poland and the rest of Europe. Based on this play and other, mostly shorter dramatic pieces of the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Mroek became known as the leading exponent of the Polish Theater of the Absurd, though his subsequent exile in Paris helped to cement his stature as one of the international masters of the contemporary stage. His early plays, such as The Police, Na penym mrozu (pr., pb. 1961; Out at Sea, 1961), and Strip-Tease (pr., pb. 1961; Striptease, 1963), are thinly disguised metaphors for the playwright’s nightmarish vision of his homeland.

In addition to their links with Alfred Jarry and the European absurdists, Mroek’s plays are firmly rooted in the Polish tradition of playwrights such as Stanisaw Wyspiaski, Stanisaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, and Andrzej Trzebiski. The nostalgic longing for the past, expressed by the Prisoner in act 1 of The Police, is a continuation of the theme of trying to overcome the depressing reality of the present by a flight into an imaginary past, foreshadowed in Mroek’s very first dramatic attempt, a vignette titled Profesor (pr. 1956, pb. 1968; The Professor, 1977), and culminating in Arthur’s attempt to reestablish the order of the past in Tango (pb. 1964, pr. 1965; Tango, 1968). The plays after Tango are less enigmatic and more directly political in nature, but they still concern themselves with the function of power and unproductive nostalgia for the past.