ISSN 2451-2966


Anna R. Burzyńska

From Documentarist to Situationist: The Plays of Paweł Demirski


The author analyses a certain phase in the work of Paweł Demirski. She argues that, with his deeply politically engaged, brilliantly intelligent theatre, Demirski appeared almost as a dream come true for all those who yearned for a new Sławomir Mrożek, a Polish Bertolt Brecht or a national verbatim theatre. And yet at the same time they were all absolutely disappointed, as his plays were utterly different from those with which political theatre had come to be associated in Poland. The playwright himself said that he owed most to the furious communist theatre of Dario Fo. As for his creative techniques, however, he is closest to the French situationists. It soon turns out that Demirski is at his best making critical approaches (i.e. dramaturgical rewritings) to found material (i.e. the cultural memory of his audiences). Each time, the unsuspecting audience is violently confronted with the brazen tricks of the playwright, who shifts the meanings, subverts sense and makes countless transgressions against good middle-class and traditional notions of logic. Demirski does not wish to free himself from Polish myths, heritage, history and memory. On the contrary, he does not lay claim to creating new orders of ideas and philosophical-aesthetic systems.


documentary theatre; engaged theatre; found footage; verbatim

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Anna R. Burzyńska

(1979), PhD, assistant professor at the Department of Theatre and Drama of the Jagiellonian University’s Polish Studies Faculty. Her main research interests include recent European theatre and Polish and German drama from the 19th century to today, as well as the links between theatre and music. Also a theatre critic, since 2000 she has been joint editor of Didaskalia theatre journal, and between 2004 and 2010 was a reviewer for the magazine Tygodnik Powszechny. Has published the books Mechanika cudu. Strategie metateatralne w polskiej dramaturgii awangardowej (2008), The Classics and the Troublemakers: Theatre Directors from Poland (2008), Maska twarzy. Twórczość dramatyczna Stanisława Grochowiaka (2011) and Małe dramaty. Teatralność liryki Stanisława Grochowiaka (2012). Has curated with the Goethe Institute and Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor, both in Kraków, and worked as a dramaturge with Stefan Kaegi and Lars Jan.