30/05  | 19:00
    31/05  | 20:30
    01/06  | 20:30

€ 16 / € 13
Polish > FR/NL

A woman whose feelings no one understands, a person who has wrapped your packet of raisins in a far-off country whose name you don’t know, a traveller who waits for the bus in front of you, a man who goes for a dive in a river… These are all characters in Fantazja, and yet we don’t get to see them onstage. They only exist in our imagination. In this performance, Polish theatre author Anna Karasińska explores theatre as a place where fiction becomes reality. What contract do the audience and the artists conclude to bring a world into existence onstage that temporarily suspends our disbelief? Does our imagination have limits? Are there phenomena or things that we cannot imagine onstage? Using a live voice-over, Karasińska directs the actors in a rapid mix of minimalistic and humoristic scenes, in which improvisation plays the leading role.

See also: Talk: Warsaw: resisting and rewriting Polish theatre today
30/05 - 20:00 (after the performance)
EN, free entrance
With: Anna Karasińska, Marta Keil
Moderator: Jonas Vanderschueren
In collaboration with: Etcetera

Direction: Anna Karasińska
Dramaturgy: Magdalena Ryszewska, Jacek Telenga
Cast: Agata Buzek, Dobromir Dymecki, Maria Maj, Adam Woronowicz, Paweł Smagała, Zofia Wichłacz
Set design and costumes: Paula Grocholska
Choreography: Magdalena Ptasznik
Lighting design: Szymon Kluz
Stage manager, director’s assistant: Malwina Szumacher
Production manager: Katarzyna Białach 
Production: TR Warszawa
Translations: Cécile Bocianowski, Kris Van Heuckelom
Surtitling: Marie Trincaretto

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Zinnema
Production: TR Warszawa 
With the cooperation of the Polish Institute-Cultural Service of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Brussels

With the support of Adam Mickiewicz Institute

Back to top

While working on Fantazja, we were focused on the activity of the imagination. The one that allows us to understand how other people feel, feel more connected with them and to see their situations without judging them. We could say that in the theater space we’ve organized a meeting of a certain number of people who would never have met in other circumstances; and if they would have met, they would not have noticed it. It’s hard to say about them that they are theatrical characters or that they are fictitious people. These people appear where the imagination of the viewers and actors meet, they interact with each other, accompany each other and disappear. We also observe the mechanism of taking on the role of the actors. We hope that in this meeting a certain sense of intimacy and joy arises, and that the mechanism of unselfish perception of others can be “taken from the theater”.

The directors of Fantazja

We Can Try to Imagine Things (excerpts)

[…] When it comes to Anna Karasińska’s theatre, simple questions as ‘What is this, actually?’ and ‘What was it you wanted when you came here tonight?’ or ‘What was it you wanted to see?’ can be asked. Reviewers have described her work – and particularly her debut production, Ewelina płacze [Ewelina’s Crying, 2015] with the company TR Warszawa, as an antidote to boredom in theatre: funny, brilliant, unorthodox, ‘simple in a sophisticated way’. (1) Critics have agreed that Karasińska has brought freshness and originality to theatre – mainly because of her earlier professional experience, which had nothing to do with the stage: she had been a philosophy student then completed a degree in film and television directing at the Łódż Film School.

But casting Karasińska in the role of an autodidact just starting out in theatre doesn’t fully grasp the conceptual background of her theatre work. As demonstrated by her five productions completed to date – Ewelina’s Crying, Drugi spektakl [The Second Performance, 2016], Urodziny [Birthday, 2016], Fantazja [The Fantasia, 2017], Twórcy [All Imaginary, 2017] – what we’re presented with is a highly coherent, through-conceived project. In this project, the theatrical situation is generated by a complicated system of reflections, rather than by a single mirror held up to the audience. And the complicated system is part of a long-term quest.

Karasińska’s works don’t exist in a vacuum, but relate in a number of ways to the works of other artists from the performative-arts field, including the Forced Entertainment collective, the Croatian choreographer and writer Ivana Müller and British-German choreographer Tino Sehgal. The objective behind identifying these touchpoints or common areas is to broaden the reflection on some of the strategies employed in Karasińska’s theatre. […] I was interested in paradoxes that seemed an inherent part of her theatre, gestures recurring or abandoned, mysterious blind spots where a peculiar kind of interdependency comes about between actors, the production and the audience.


In many respects, Karasińska’s works are gems of metatheatre. […] Obviously, her work has much in common with institutional critique, unmasking mechanisms of the production of art. Although institutional critique has been present in global art since the 1960s, it has only recently gained prominence in Polish theatre. Nonetheless, it has quickly become common ground for directors associated with ‘auto-theatre’. According to critic Joanna Krakowska, who coined the term ‘auto-theatre’, speaking from the stage in one’s own name rather than in the name of a character is at the heart of this mode of theatre. […]

Karasińska’s approach has much in common with Tino Sehgal’s strategy: the choreographer employs jokes and humour to disturb rigid institutional structures by literally setting in motion with choreographic action those features of a museum or gallery which remain beyond a visitor’s view. […] In Karasińska’s work, the theatrical situation is simple, stripped of the theatricality carried by costumes, stage set or props. If a prop does come up – as, for instance, yoghurt does in Fantazja – it’s more of an exception corroborating the rule. Playing with projections and fantasies of projections replaces playing with stage conventions.

Fantazja is based on anything we can imagine, or what we can try to imagine or are unable to imagine. It’s the process of designing a performance where an audience member is an imaginary co-author. As we learn from Karasińska’s opening remarks from the balcony – ‘you can’t see this, but it can be imagined’ – the performance we’re about to see will now come into being, live with the exception of several excerpts that participants got used to during rehearsals. The actors haven’t been assigned their roles. Karasińska – there can be no doubt it’s her as she addresses the audience and the actors directly – emphasizes that she’s going to react to events on stage and read out the course the performance will take. For this reason, there’s no such thing as a single perfect course of events. For, rather than ‘played back from the tape’, Karasińska is live herself, and it’s possible that she’ll laugh or make a mistake, or be at a loss about what to do next. […] The actors’ reactions to the instructions are somewhat unusual: they at once play and don’t play what’s been suggested to them. […] The actors also play members of the audience, actors appearing in Fantazja, and even those among the actors who hope they won’t have to play certain things. […] [T]he fantasia of the title is a bridge leading towards the audience’s involvement in the process of filling in blanks in the performance and taking an attitude of authorship towards it.

Karasińska said in an interview: ‘First you need to disarm the situation: audience-production-theatre. And then create a community, a place of exchange’. […] Her theatre is minimalist, conceptual and based on paradoxes. Leaving things unsaid, the fluidity of actor and audience identity, and maintaining the tension in the communication between performers and their audience, are requisite for the encounter to genuinely take place.

Iga Gańczarczyk
Translated by Joanna Błachnio
Published by Theatre Institute and Theatre Academy in Warsaw

(1) Mrozek Witold, Abstrakcyjna ‘Fantazja’w TR Warszawa, Gazeta Wyborcza , 16 April 2017.

Back to top

Anna Karasińska – stage director, attended the Władysław Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź and the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Łódź, graduated from the Faculty of Direction at the Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź. Her student short films, features and documentaries were shown at several dozen festivals around the world, many winning international prizes. She made her theatre debut with her original production of Ewelina’s Crying, staged in 2015 at TR Warszawa as part of the TR Territory (Teren TR) project. In 2016 for Ewelina’s Crying, Anna Karasińska won the Kazimierz Krzanowski Promotional Award at the 51st KONTRAPUNKT Small Theatre Form Festival. In 2016 Karasińska directed The Second Production at the Teatr Polski in Poznań, followed that same year by Birthday staged as part of the Micro-Theatre at Komuna//Warszawa. In 2017 she also directed her another original play in TR Warszawa – The Fantasia that was shown at Dublin Theatre Festival in 2018. In 2018 she directed 2118. Karasińska at the Nowy Teatr in Warsaw. Nominated for the PASZPORTY POLITYKI Award in THEATRE in 2018.

Back to top