Playing with Kantor

Playing with Kantor/Gra z Kantorem

“I am not the saviour of the theatre or a reformer of the world, or anything like that. I just do my job, my work, I make my art. The method I invent is for my own use, not for society’s use,” Tadeusz Kantor said in 1989. Nevertheless, attempts were made after his death to formulate, codify and describe a universal “Kantor method”. Noel Witts, the author of a monograph of the Krakow artist published in the Routledge Performance Practitioners series, suggests a number of exercises (in the manner of those used by Meyerhold and Grotowski), to achieve effects similar to those produced by the Cricot 2 theatre. It is difficult to imagine that following this path might result in the creation of a valuable work of art.

Kantor’s impact on the development of performative arts across the world is immense and unquestionable. Naming the author of Dead Class as one of the three pioneers of postdramatic theatre (alongside Robert Wilson and Klaus-Michael Grüber), the eminent German theatrologist Hans-Thies Lehmann draws attention not only to the distinctive features of his work, which perfectly match the definition of postdramatic theatre, but also emphasises the artist’s important role in the conduct of the “velvet revolution” that was soon to open the doors of European repertory theatres to a new theatre, born of the spirit of images and music rather than words.

Many outstanding artists, working in the visual arts and dance and, above all, the theatre, have admitted inspiration from Kantor’s oeuvre and their desire to engage in dialogue with it.

It is hardly possible to ignore the fact that Kantor is in contemporary theatre a rare example of a total artist, an Artist of the Theatre as defined by Edward Gordon Craig. Not only a director, but also a playwright, dramaturge, set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, sound designer and performer, as well as an expert in theatre and art history, a chronicler and archivist of his own work and – what is particularly inspiring and telling – author of manifestoes. At the same time, an artist who did not raise any successors in the strict sense of the word, who had no students, created no “method” or “school”, taught no workshops, left behind no sets of exercises or textbooks. And, significantly, one who was outside mainstream repertory theatre, in opposition to the classical tradition; someone anti-canonical, i.e. someone against whom the younger generation does not rebel but regards him as one of their own. A brilliant representative of an alternative to all that is banal, stagnant, commercialised and dead in the theatre.

The series of meetings “Gra z Kantorem” (Playing with Kantor) will showcase the work of great foreign directors who cite the Krakow artist as an inspiration and approach his work the way Kantor approached the dramas of Witkacy: he did not stage them word for word, he did not play Witkacy but played with Witkacy. Just as you play cards or chess with a smart, difficult opponent.

Anna Róża Burzyńska


The meetings will be held on Mondays. Each presentation will be preceded by a short lecture by Dr Anna Róża Burzyńska on the associations of the recordings and artists with Tadeusz Kantor.

Admission is free.

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