The polish incident | Carnaval Sztukmistrzów

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the polish incident


“I wholeheartedly believe that with this festival and these shows we can help create history” Agnieszka Bińczycka during the meeting with the artists of the Polish Incident, 20.09.2020, Lublin




Table of contents


One pandemic – one idea – one meeting – Polish incident 01

10 performances

13 / VII Ale Circus Dance Company 17 / The Lion Man Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy

48 Post factum

50 / Marta Kuczyńska “Contemporary Polish circus – room for improvement” 52 / Rafał Sadownik, Grzegorz Kondrasiuk An incident or a proccess?” 62 / Agnieszka “binia” Bińczycka “Pandemic Carnaval” 64 / Anna Viljanen “The Clown is Dead, Long Live the Clown”

21 / Fool’s Epitaph Kolektyw Kejo 25 / H2Oooops Tres de la Nada 29 / Veggie Kamil Żongler 33 / Kings of Entertaiment Miłosz Budka i Marcin Lipski

70 Post scriptum

37 / Rabbit in HumanLand AntiRabbity 41 / Death and Laughter Wrzące Ciała 45 / Busker Show


One pandemic – one meeting – P 01 A showcase of contemporary Polish circus productions – the first ever in Poland Born out of a need and necessity. In the global sense – our response to the pandemic. In the national sense (Poland-wide) – a manifesto and declaration. There are times when the unpredictability of our reality manifests more strongly than at others. This is what happened this year. Not more than a year ago, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the international theatre and circus festival Carnaval Sztukmistrzów. Its 11th edition was meant to be an introduction to a new formula and a new beginning. Planned from A to Z and nearly finalised, it all fell apart like a house of cards with the onset of the pandemic. In such circumstances, how does one organise an outdoor festival that relies on spontaneity and interaction between spectators and artists who mostly come from abroad? Frustration, resignation, and a sense of defeat plagued us in March 2020. Our ray of sunshine amidst this turbulent storm was to build on the idea of a contest for Polish outdoor shows that had already been in the works for the 11th edition of the festival, even before the pandemic broke out. Among nineteen submissions for the Polish contemporary circus outdoor show, we selected two winners – “H2Oooops” by Tres de La Nada and “Veggie” by Kamil Malecki. From the remaining seventeen, we picked five shows that we found well thought-out, original and

feasible to produce, namely Ale Circus Dance Company’s “VII”, “The Fool’s epitaph” by Kolektyw Kejos, “Death and Laughter” by Wrzące Ciala, Antirabbity’s “Rabbit in HumanLand”, “The Lion Man” by Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy. They were joined by “The Kings of Entertainment” – a project by Miłosz Budka and Marcin Lipski that was not completed in 2019. Busker Show that closed our list of premieres featured shows produced in the format of variety entertainment. It was inspired by Carnaval Sztukmistrzów’s immensely popular attraction, the itinerant Backyard Circus that in the face of the pandemic was transformed into an exuberant stage show. This was how the core of The Polish Incident was created. Over time, we added accompanying events, such as the acrobatic show “Prometheus” or the concert by Dziady Kazimierskie and Rury Wydechowe. We had been planning a showcase of Polish contemporary circus scene for many years but circumstances never seemed to favour its execution and ever changing priorities kept varying the programmes of subsequent editions of Carnaval Sztukmistrzów. The unrealised idea came to fruition due to the sudden changes forced by the pandemic. This incident marks the beginning of an important and needed step forward for the Polish circus community, not just in terms of presentation, but also developing the network of the circus industry.


– one idea – Polish incident Rafał Sadownik / Artistic Director Iwona Kornet / Coordinator of the Festival

The Polish Incident was meant to present the current state of artistic circus in the midst of Polish culture. We wanted to present the multi-layered forms and performative phenomenon of contemporary circus. Polish circus has much to offer in these aspects. The artists confidently delve into the richness of circus, theatre and dance arts, as well as physical and object theatre, and many others. Sometimes, they simply draw inspiration from the charming and playful spirit of the circus, they play with conventions and themes. This edition offered us all an unexpected return to the roots; it was a meeting that reminded us of the long road we have traversed and the road that still awaits us going forward. This road has been paved by subsequent editions of the festival, new projects and ideas, countless meetings and conversations. This shared journey and its effects allow us to feel optimistic about the future of Polish contemporary circus scene in which we as the producers of the largest Polish contemporary circus festival strongly believe and want to foster and support it. We encourage you to read the following publication presenting an overview of Polish contemporary circus scene in 2020.




perfo man




“The process of composing collective movement to song lyrics is real masterwork: its meaningfulness is expressed in a thoughtful economy of gestures. Simply put: what is sung is also performed. The spectator does not feel excess or insufficiency, and watches the show with all senses, feeling cohesion when time and time again the text is punctuated with a meaningful gesture.” A. Bińczycka


Ale Circus Dance Company



The show presents an interactive group of people – one woman and six men. The woman rebels against following men’s rules. The story has two layers. In the first, the protagonist takes the audience on a journey through the history of the creation of the world, the rebellion of the angels and man’s banishment from paradise until we end up here and now, in our reality. The second layer is more philosophical. We accompany a lost and repressed girl on her journey to becoming a strong and independent woman with the courage to create her world according to her own rules. Music, borrowed from Kaczmarski’s “Raj” (Paradise) and Karolina Czarnecka’s repertoire, doesn’t just accompany the story, it is the tale’s literal narrator. Creators

Ale [lit. But] Circus Dance Company is a group that combines circus arts with dance and physical theatre. Ale’s shows are mainly based on theatre, in which means of expression have been extended to include circus aerobatics, acrobatics and dance. Their theatre is not only rich in form, but also encourages reflection. Because there is always a BUT. The artists are graduates of the State School of Circus Arts, winners of many prestigious contests, finalists, semi-finalists and participants of Poland’s Got Talent, artists who have gained their performing experiences on stages in Poland and abroad, people who share the passion for theatre, dance and circus arts! Director

Maciej Czarski Choreography Consultant

Weronika Pelczyńska Cast

Nicole Lewicka, Antoni Borodziuk, Maciej Czarski, Mateusz Czwojdziński, Tomasz Piotrowski, Maciej Sokołowski, Kamil Witkowski Contact

+48 510238817 Maciej Czarski 30 min / no limits juggling, magic, acrobatic duo, aerial acrobatics, ground acrobatics, physical theatre, dance acrobatics, dance



“The title THE LION MAN and the retro decorations suggest that we are about to watch a lunapark show featuring a cabinet of curiosities, charlatans, tricksters, magicians from Mława, petty thieves, freaks and old boys, but what we get is a strong social performance in which the Lion Man, Clown Hunter and the Girl Clown Szmira are figures of the “other” who become the voice of the excluded.” A. Bińczycka


Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy

The Lion Man



A freak circus musical inspired by “Beauty and the Beast” and the biography of Stefan Bibrowski – the star of American freak shows of the early 20th century. The show broaches the subject of the price of fame and recognition. Does the freak have a right to love and be loved? Bibrowski, who suffered from a rare illness called hypertrichosis, was sold by his parents to the circus. His excessive hair and personal charm conquered the hearts of audiences in Europe and the USA. Referring to itinerant freak shows, the show talks about the longing for love of the circus artists: the lion man and a female clown who are terrorised and trained by the freak show’s owner. What are the costs of fame and recognition? Can you build a home in an increasingly restless world? Does the freak have the right to love and be loved? Together, let’s look for answers to these questions.

Script and direction

Michał Walczak (playwright, director, the chairman of the foundation “Zakochana Warszawa”, author of award-winning plays for children and teenagers, the co-founder of the cabaret Pożar w Burdelu, Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy, Praski Teatr Lalek and Muzeum Nowych Legend i Baśni Warszawskich). Cast

Maciej Czarski, Antek Borodziuk, Jagoda Stanasiuk, Hanna Klepacka Music

Hanna Klepacka Lyrics

Michał Walczak, Anna Klepacka The show features the song Szmira with music by Michał Górczyński. Contact

+48 502342054 Michał Walczak 40 min / no limits clowning, aerial, ground acrobatics, musical, comedy


“Watching the presentation of the work by Kolektyw Kejos, I felt like I was attending a real, live Shakespearean theatre that follows all the rules of the master (...) Kolektyw Kejos perfectly reflect the spirit of this theatre atmosphere from hundreds of years ago. We do not need to know anything beyond what we see.” A. Bińczycka


Kolektyw Kejos

The Fool’s Epitaph


What did Elizabethan actors do in order to amuse and keep the attention of spectators who were ready to throw things at the performers who bored them? What theatre strategies, beyond reciting the texts, could be used to convey more complex content to audiences seeking entertainment? These questions are the identifying factors of Kejos’ artistic explorations. “The Fool’s Epitaph” is a show incorporating techniques of motion theatre, visual theatre and new circus and it is inspired by Shakespearean themes, especially the figure of the fool. Kolektyw weaves a tale between the lines, veering between age-old problems and modernity. This presentation of the work in progress, unfinished and imperfect, reveals one of the phases of an experiment exploring the links between theatre and contemporary circus. Creators

Kolektyw Kejos is a group of artists who focus on using circus techniques as means of expression equal to other performative forms, such as theatre, dance, music or multimedia. The group’s plays combine a variety of arts, sorted according to the script, theme and story, just like in the theatre. In contrast to traditional circus, Kejos’ shows are not just a series of tricks, but they form a cohesive artistic message. Directors

Marta Kuczyńska, Jacek Timingeriu Cast

Marta Kuczyńska, Jacek Timingeriu, Zuzanna Nir, Youri Gregoire, Adam Banach Stage design

Barbara Szymczak Costumes

Olga Rudzińska Sewing assistance

Maria Zając Technical assistance

Ewa Timingeriu

This presentation is part of the Competition for the Support of Artistic Projects within the 24th Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival Contact

+48 665884551 Marta Kuczyńska 40 min / no limits clowning, body and motion theatre, visual theatre, juggling, trapeze



“In their simple, but flavourful show of high, joyous quality, they do not spare our vocal chords while we laugh ourselves to tears as our tension ebbs away.” “The Clown is dead, long live the Clown” Anna Viljanen


Tres de la Nada



“H2Oooops” is a journey into the centre of the earth and back in search of the life-giving spring. The audience watch as Javier, Sergio and Jorge scurry around the city doing their best to find what they are looking for. To get help in their quest, they turn to technology, the spectators and even supernatural forces. Their determination and obstinacy lead them to try a variety of ideas – from simple to totally crazy. The artists’ dedication is reflected in the emotions they evoke, the dynamics of the show and either the final success or a spectacular failure of the exploration project. Juggling, clowning, wit, dance, illusion and an immersive story are the foundations on which Tres de La Nada have built their show. ** Winner of the 1st edition of the competition for Carnaval Sztukmistrzów’s outdoor circus show Creators:

Tres de la Nada are three artists from Pamplona, a city famous for many Spanish traditions. Before they met, Raul Hernández had performed illusion and juggling acts in Europe, while Sergio Carrero and Augusto Moreno had toured Europe, Asia and Africa with a pantomime show. Now, they have joined forces. Their art is based on simple, but charming wit, sound synchronised movement, illusion, juggling strange objects and direct interaction with the audience. Spanish temperament fused with Central European inventiveness are the essence of their art. Script, direction, cast

Javier Hernández, Sergio Carrero, Jorge Moreno Contact

+48 518404198 Marcin Wąsowski 518404198 33 min / no limits clowning, juggling, equilibristics, illusion, pantomime



“If after writing “At the Vegetable Stall” Jan Brzechwa had watched this show, he would not have been able to help himself and would have surely written the continuation of adventures of the stall vegetables that... become artists before they disappear in the soup forever.” A. Bińczycka


Kamil Ĺťongler



Veggie is a clown-chef who wants to share the greatness of his art with the guests at his field kitchen. Unfortunately, his culinary skills aren’t outstanding, so he will experiment, test and offer many surprises. During this show we will face a nefarious enemy… vegetables! We will watch acrobatic experiments meant to tame these beasts. Will the attempt to deal with them end in failure? Or will Veggie discover a recipe for success? Find out what he’s cooked up! ** Winner of the 1st edition of the competition for Carnaval Sztukmistrzów’s outdoor circus show Creators

Kamil Malecki – juggler and firemaster. His shows are new and different, they confront the artists’ original ideas with the expectations of the spectators. “I am serious about trivial things. I mean, things that are seemingly trivial because I believe that what I do matters to people with whom I share my circus. I know that I will be doing this for many years to come – at least that’s what I hope, that’s my small dream.” Conceptual consultants

Marta Kuczyńska, Jakub Szwed Director’s consultant

Marek Kościółek Contact

+48 502171735 Kamil Malecki 30 min / no limits clowning, juggling




Miłosz Budka and Marcin Lipski

The Kings of Entertainment

“The show is like a fairy tale with a positive message (...) Peals of laughter can be invoked with a crafted gesture, especially since for a king of entertainment, the only “crown” is the approval of the audience.” A. Bińczycka


Two master circus performers face off using their skills and abilities to compete for the title of the King of Entertainment. After every act, the audience will decide and vote on who should be rewarded with points. The aim of the contest is to present a range of acts in the shortest amount of time as possible. Who will win? No one knows…


Miłosz Budka and Marcin Lipski are two street artists who have performed solo and/or together at various festivals in Poland and abroad. This is Marcin’s second official performance at Carnaval. Between the two of them, they have over 14 years of experience in street performances. They are among few artists who can boast that they didn’t appear in “Poland’s Got Talent”. Contact

+48 570 860 710 Miłosz Budka 30 min / no limits

busking, improvisation, juggling



The rabbit is magically working with his circus artifacts, but he’s also constantly “brought down to earth” by the voice of the Queen who reprimands him, sets tasks and evaluates their results. (...) The concept is sweeping and fantastic, inspired from one of the most widely read books in the world, it will always stir curiosity, especially when the play with the conventions overlaps with an important message. “Follow the white rabbit” A. Bińczycka



Rabbit in HumanLand

“The rabbit is magically working with his circus artifacts, but he’s also constantly “brought down to earth” by the voice of the Queen who reprimands him, sets tasks and evaluates their results (...) The concept is sweeping and fantastic, and inspirations from one of the most widely read books in the world will always stir curiosity, especially when the play with the conventions overlaps with an important message.” A. Bińczycka


Alice, the protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s book, falls through a rabbit hole into a mysterious world. But what if the situation was reversed? Our guide in this story is the Rabbit – a fantasy-inspired fictional character thrust into the middle of a modern city. Our protagonist is on a very important mission given by the Queen of Hearts: to convince people to move to Wonderland. The show talks about ideals, utopia and moral dilemmas, and its overall presentation is surreal and bizarre, seasoned with circus arts. Creators

Tomasz Piotrowski – director and actor in the show. A new circus artist and performer with over 10 years of stage experience. The winner of many circus / fireshow contests in Poland and abroad, including: Cyrkulacje, fire festival in Kutno, Newcomer show in Leipzig and Poland’s Got Talent. He is currently active in the project Multivisual focused on shows combining circus arts with new technologies. Director’s consultant

Marta Kuczyńska Contact

+48 600710435 Tomasz Piotrowski 30 min / no limits juggling, manipulation, pantomime, light show




Wrzące Ciała

“The feelings and moods that swept the audience with nearly superhuman amplitude frequently changed gear from euphoria to despair – and all that in a matter of seconds. Death and Fool played us like instruments that are slightly out of tune but ready.” Anna Viljanen

Death and Laughter


Two loners, old souls from completely different worlds are given a chance to decide whether their meeting will bring happiness or catastrophe. Fate has brought together Death and Clown. These two opposing personalities clash, leading to an emotional shock that may bring about a new beginning. The show broaches the topics of crossing the limits of one’s comfort zone and discovering new possibilities using all sorts of techniques – dance, miming, acrobatics, and clowning. What will come out of the meeting of these two personalities? Let’s see for ourselves during this tense performance full of unexpected twists and turns. Creators

Wrzące Ciała consists of Aleksandra Batko – actress, graduate of The National Academy of Theatre Arts in Cracow and Maja Rękawek – a graduate of The Maria Grzegorzewska Pedagogical University in Warsaw. Both have been involved in physical theatre for the past three years. Music for the show has been composed by Paweł Odorowicz – a graduate of the Music Academy in Cracow, violist, instrumentalist, composer, producer, arranger. He’s a recipient of many awards and scholarships and currently works with CHOREA theatre and Leszek Mądzik. Artistic consultation

Marta Kuczyńska 30 min / no limits clowning, physical theatre, dance, pantomime, elements of acrobatics




Busker Show


A unique circus show, in which original street artists and other performers present their best acts. A colourful collage of circus personalities and disciplines featuring breathtaking acrobatics, fire breathing, illusion, clowning, an elastic woman, hula hoop and aerobatics on a ladder. Artists who performed in 2020: Dominika OsamGyaabin, Kari Panska, Krzysztof Kostera, Marcin Ex Styczyński, Marysia i Julian, Pan Ząbek. Busker Show is a stage equivalent of “Backyard Circus”, a project run by Carnaval Sztukmistrzów since 2015. It has won the love and enormous favour of Lublin’s residents. It’s a form of itinerant circus that appears in districts of Lublin that are away from the city centre and offers a foretaste and teaser of the festival’s attractions. This annual itinerant circus event featuring artists from Poland and abroad is addressed to residents of Lublin’s districts away from the city centre. The show’s simple formula as well as charismatic and varied performers create a uniquely energetic mix of extraordinary acts that enchant audiences of all ages. Backyard Circus refers to small itinerant circus troupes visiting towns and poorer districts of large cities at the beginning of the 20th century. Groups of such vagabond circus artists presented short circus acts accompanied by music and thus satisfied the cultural needs of the residents. The programme usually included elements of acrobatics, equilibristics, demonstrations of strength, illusion and juggling. Frequently complemented by ribald jokes or songs, the performances encouraged the residents to donate some money to the troupes. Backyard Circus is an interesting ensemble of artists with considerable street performance experience who present their acts in eight districts of Lublin a few days before Carnaval. Excitement and laughter are guaranteed! 90 min / no limits Acrobatics, illusion, hula hoop, fire breathing, contortions,







Contemporary Polish circus – room for improvement Marta Kuczyńska the curator of Carnaval Sztukmistrzów


Every year for the last decade I have been attending the contemporary circus festival “Letni Letna” in Prague. Aside from the main international programme, shows can also be watched in the so-called Czech Tent (cesky stan), where you can see everything the Czech circus produces during the year. Seven years ago, I wondered why no one was selecting any of the shows – because they were no good. Four years ago, I thought: these shows are not so bad after all. Last year I decided that they don’t frequently diverge from the main programme and they still very much follow the “Czech style”. Investing in the local market might flounder at first but brings the desired result after some time. The Polish Incident has been generated artificially but at the same time the need to create spaces and conditions to show Polish artistic circus has been looming in the air for years. At Workshops of Culture, we often discuss how to support and develop the market of artistic circus in Poland. Professionalism in Polish circus predominantly comes down to performing in popular entertainment shows. Very few artists can afford to devote themselves to artistic circus: experimenting with circus techniques, combining genres, directing and choreography, teamwork. In order to make an ambitious experimental circus, you need to be a hero, sacrificing your personal life to focus on the thousands of tasks

involved with the show, performing it on stage, selling, lobbying, and promoting. Circus artists are managers, curators and organisers in one; they sell tickets, create the stage design and take promotional shots. The Polish Incident is a move to encourage artistic development, offering professional (paid) creative work for new circus artists in Poland. It has also presented an opportunity to compare different directions, work methods and possibilities of circus as an art form. Aside from watching performances, we had a chance to discuss the production process and share our experiences. It’s a very important moment in the current environment. May the Incident become a precedent because the artistic circus environment needs financing, places for creative work and presentation as well as constructive criticism. Measured against the global scale, the level of Polish artistic circus still leaves room for improvement. Our shows need direction, acting skills, artistic consultations, choreographers, music, and light. We are consistently heading in a good direction. The Incident is not the end of our work, it’s only the beginning. Let’s not rest on laurels and use the Incident as an opportunity to deepen the development and professionalisation of our artistic activities.


An incident, or a process? Grzegorz Kondrasiuk

Grzegorz Kondrasiuk talks to Rafał Sadownik, 2020.11.18

about the first Polish showcase of contemporary circus. Grzegorz Kondrasiuk ( Before the infamous 2020 came, Carnaval SztukmistrzĂłw had already had over 10 years behind it. During that time you developed its cohesive and mature formula, and we can speak of Carnaval as a brand. And now all of a sudden you are announcing a new beginning. Is it supposed to be an evolution or a radical change of the formula, a closure of a certain stage?


Rafał Sadownik (the artistic director of Lublin’s Carnaval Sztukmistrzów festival):

This year’s edition titled “The Polish Incident” isn’t an entirely new beginning for us because we are putting life into ideas that we have been thinking about for years. We started in 2010 with a large festival written into the city’s structure. Since then, Carnaval has been one of the events propelling tourism in Lublin. It has been based on the idea of condensing various events related to the circus into one, large, four-day summer festival. It has included typically ludic, playful elements, namely buskers and shows in various spaces in the city, squares, plazas – like a street carnival, while new circus has served as a strong pivot of the programme with large and smaller shows held in tents and on theatre stages. Another important part has been music – fanfares and brass bands veering between concert and street performance. Yet another strong, distinct element of Carnaval has been Urban Highline Festival, the largest festival in the world focused on the equilibristic discipline called “slacklining”, directly inspired by the figure of “The Magician

of Lublin”. Every year, Urban Highline Festival gathers nearly 250 highliners from across the world who walk on several dozen lines hung between the most characteristic buildings in Lublin. Until now, all these elements have been condensed into four days of urban street carnival. Let’s decipher what hides behind the Polish, Lublin iteration of the worldwide discipline of slacklining. A slackliner is a modern day ropewalker who walks not on ropes but lines or webbings and not inside a chapiteau but under the open sky. In Lublin, slackliners walk above streets or squares, sometimes between the largest city buildings or... church steeples. Below the lines are crowds who watch, comment and applaud successful walks, tricks but perhaps most of all the falls (of course, slackliners are secured). The characteristic figure of the slackliner, slightly tilted to the side with outstretched arms against the backdrop of some Lublin tower or building, to use this beautiful visual shortcut, where the old trickster figure, Singer’s Yasha Mazur has received a new form, has



permanently entered Lublin’s imaginarium. The same goes for buskers performing in the streets for a fee into their hats, not just during Carnaval but also beyond it, the entire summer season.

Yes, that has been a success and it’s become a permanent fixture in Lublin’s cultural landscape. It has been promoted well not just locally but also in the country. However, marketing is not the only thing that has worked in the festival’s favour. The festival has filled a certain gap in cultural events in Poland – the lack of a ludic event that does not impose barriers. During Carnaval, people from different social groups, of different ages and experiences come together. Circus shows reach everyone, they take hold on various levels through their conventions, subjects, type of art. The shows have the power to build a community, albeit a temporary one. They show that we can laugh at the same things, that the same topics stir strong emotions in all of us. We have also managed to create a festival that fits the local Lublin identity. Marketing research conducted in 2006 showed that residents of Lublin and inhabitants of Poland on the whole had a hard time defining what constitutes identity. In a way, Carnaval has helped to consolidate that. This is evidenced by interest that’s been growing from year to year, as I’ve had the chance to observe. Actually, from the very first editions you’ve been accompanied by large audiences. Tens of thousands of people in the streets, difficulties in getting tickets for shows in halls and tents.

Until a certain moment it all worked very well. But at some point we became tired of doing everything all at once. We wanted something more without losing the playful urban character. For instance, we thought about dividing the festival into two parts or even holding two festivals instead of one. One of these festivals would be typically street-based, playful, featuring buskers, various urban actions, showing the full range of outdoor arts, strongly present in festivals in western Europe. Outdoor arts are more commonly recognised than street theatre in Poland because they refer to many fields of art, creating new meanings. The second part of the programme was meant to be an artistic circus, a contemporary circus, a cirque contemporain as they currently call it in France. These are the kind of performances that we had a chance to see for instance at the circus biennale,

at festivals in Marseilles or Auch. These are more ambitious shows that set new standards, look for new forms. We had the programme for the 2020 edition of Carnaval ready in February. We wanted to open up the street: we invited buskers to take part in open contests with financial rewards. However, we wanted to put emphasis on the artistic side of things – to come up with a strong offering of ticketed shows performed both on the stages inside tents and outdoors in enclosed spaces. Then the pandemic hit. But the crisis proved to be an opportunity as well. For many years, we had been discussing the possibility of organising an Eastern European circus showcase: an overview of the best shows from several Central and East European countries.It could be a magnet for festival programmers from Western Europe. As participants in the Circostrada network and Circus Next platform, we noticed an increase in interest from countries that are just emerging in the circus arts market, but don’t have a strong representation. We wanted to build a platform for shows from our geographic region to be promoted in Western Europe. This also did not work out for many reasons such as discrepancies among the respective scenes. For instance, the Czech Republic, which has been intensely developing its new circus scene for the last fifteen years, is a lot more advanced.The artistic quality is higher there and they are recognised in Western Europe. On the other hand, there are countries like Slovakia or Croatia where local productions have already been created but they are only now entering international markets and need interest, promotion. One of these countries is Poland. However, the pandemic forced us to react quickly and modify the format. A total lockdown followed: cancelling meetings of the platforms and networks, festivals, banning travels abroad. It’s pretty clear what it meant for the artists in the industry, predominantly freelancers – the fear of economic collapse and unemployment reared its head pretty much right away.

Poland lacks financial mechanisms to support circus artists. Festivals serve that role – by sending out invitations, working on co-productions. Festivals are the only patrons of circus arts! Hence their role during the pandemic is incredibly important, our responsibility is even greater. All the more reason why festivals should direct their attention to Polish artists. That’s why we reached for the idea of a contest for Polish outdoor circus shows that had been planned as part of this year’s edition of Carnaval and, outside


the contest, decided to financially contribute to and support the production of several additional projects which we selected from among all the submissions. In total, we presented nine premieres in what turned out to be an interesting range of shows offering different disciplines and aesthetics. We decided to go with the showcase formula and called it The Polish Incident – Incydent Polski. And that’s how the showcase of Polish new circus projects was born. To the contest jury we invited representatives of other Polish festivals presenting circus productions: OFCA (Oleśnica’s Festival of Circus and Art) and FETA ( Feta – International Street and Open-Air Theatres Festival). Aside from financial support, the prize included premiering at Carnaval Sztukmistrzów and a guaranteed spot at the two festivals. We are perfectly aware that in Poland it’s easier to produce a show, but the hard part is to give such a show its life. In the circus industry, performing a show more than three or four times is already a big success, that’s why we wanted to make sure the selected shows had an opportunity to be presented, at least in this limited scope at first. We are glad that the Polish Incident generated an interest from the community in Warsaw. We hope that more festivals and centres will join our initiative, inviting the winners of the contest to perform. Which aspects of the Incident were the most

So at this current stage of contemporary Polish circus, the most important thing was the basic economic sense of this activity – financing premieres, the initial costs, stage designs, costumes, the work on directing and screenplays or directorial consulting?

Yes. Even if ideas are forged into actual shows, it’s all from the artists’ own cost and effort, without directorial support, without feedback. Here, they received the money for the production, the possibility of directorial consulting, as well as logistical and organisational support. The shows have premiered and will appear at other festivals. All shows were recorded and we screened them online. Full information about all participants of the Incident will be printed in the post-festival publication that we will send to other festival organisers and cultural institutions, among others. Is the Incident an artistic start-up for the Polish artistic circus?

There has been no such initiative in Poland before. It is important for us to have a comprehensive approach – going from the idea written down by the artist on a sheet of paper, through taking care of the concept and production, leading to the premiere, exposure and promotion.

important for the artists themselves?

I think a great potential of this initiative lies

In spring, when everyone was locked up in their homes, the phone call from the organisers of the largest Polish circus festival announcing that they would like to support the production, that a show at Carnaval was possible, really got them going and motivated them to work. These people often carry their ideas in their heads for years, but have no funds to produce them.

precisely in supporting the conceptual side,

Who specifically was this initiative aimed at?

They are often artists with a circus school diploma who have completed various courses on techniques and skills. They are at a point in life when they need to take control and steer their own artistic development. They often end up in the commercial or event industry or look for TV careers. Polish artists have a good command of circus techniques – we have nothing to be ashamed of here. The only things we lack are stage experience, dramaturgy of the show, a director’s or a choreographer’s way of thinking.

looking for mature directing of circus shows, supporting circus dramaturgy that after all are different from directing or dramaturgy of a theatre or dance performance.

This potential is still neglected in Poland, or rather it’s undiscovered. It’s something that’s still absent from our education system, even though our circus school is one of the oldest in Europe. It’s very important to understand that a performance is more than a presentation of skills in mastered techniques. To create a performance, you first need to be able to create a short etude that’s simple but well thought-out and fine-tuned in terms of direction. Some of our invited artists have taken the directorial consulting we have offered (run by Marta Kuczyńska) and I’m convinced it has served them very well, bringing enormous results. We will definitely keep developing these aspects of our programme.


Do you think about continuing this project? Do you

Which shows did ultimately draw your attention

have a long-term plan?

during the Polish showcase?

We’ve discussed this a lot with the artists, and they highlight the need for this programme to stay permanent. We will certainly keep this part of the Carnaval – either in the annual formula or as biennale, or as a showcase of invited productions combined with a contest for premieres. We want the Polish programme to be an element of Carnaval’s new formula.

I’m always interested in Kejos and their explorations – though we need to wait for the premiere of “The Fool’s Epitaph” in two months because their show at the Polish Incident was a pre-premiere presentation of their work. Kejos is the oldest still active new circus group in Poland. Both Jacek Tinmigeriu and Marta Kuczyńska are experienced directors so there’s no room for infantilism in their approach to this area. The theme and figure of the fool as the progenitor of the clown is important to me and this character combined with the aesthetic in post-apocalyptic tone gives a very interesting effect.

Is there a Polish idiom of contemporary circus? How would it be characterised?

It’s a difficult question. I think it’s too early to put forward such a thesis, that at the Polish incident we can observe the formation of identity of Polish contemporary circus.Look at Scandinavian countries that a dozen or so years ago had no professional groups and the circus scene didn’t exist, but with the emergence of systemic financial support, schools, quality education and support programmes that identity formed very quickly. The distinctiveness, otherness of their circus grabs you at first sight.

You’ve described Kejos as a new circus group but at the same time you mention terms such as “directing” – I understand you are referring to direction inspired by the theatrical invention of text staging. It might be worth adding here that a distinguishing feature of Kejos is that coming from the circus, with the technical background of circus artists, they always aspire to integrate a fusion of theatralisation with the circus, always invent some new world, create it on stage and

Yes and all the cultural references, echoes from

amend the skills or tricks to its needs.

North European heritage, such as highlighting their connection to nature, do not appear artificial in contemporary Scandinavian circus. Betting on elements of local, native identity in art does not have to be something forced on by grant giving organisations.

I think that this character will reveal itself on its own. You need to let these topics take roots. To find your own identity and reflect it through art simply requires time. The artists need to produce many shows, go through a number of failures and success. As in any field of art. The only distinct identity phenomenon that I noticed in the Incident was the imprint of the Polish street theatre form. Namely, traces of countercultural origins.

Indeed. In Poland, new circus has always been strongly countercultural and its artists have rebellion in their blood. The shows presented at the Polish Incident included such themes as the right to be different, cultural identity, social and cultural roles, the position of women, and a number of ecological themes or those related to the responsibility for the way we function as societies.

I think that in “The Fool’s Epitaph” Kejos displays a very mature way of thinking about how a circus functions on the stage, with traditional oppositions now disappearing: entertainment vs seriousness, high culture vs low, etc. It’s already entered into the modern space of cultural recycling and related melancholy. Whether we agree or not, today we all function on a big dumpster of overused forms and cultural stereotypes. To quote Różewicz – “always fragment”. Kejos’ artists seem to speak precisely form this place, they don’t judge or evaluate the evoked quotes from Shakespeare that by now have become threadbare. Instead, they look for their new potential by remixing the text with body techniques, music citations (not necessarily renaissance music), with a mocking use of technologies. It turns out that unexpectedly their Fool is neither white nor black. He’s not beautiful or nostalgic, nor ironic or derisive. Perhaps he’s simply grey? It’s rather someone who sees culture and tradition from a different perspective, as if turned inside out.


Aside from Kejos, we’ve also had Ale Circus

the circus side. The performance is consistent,

Company at the Incident.

pure nonsense in its aesthetics and concept. For the artist such a production is also a bridge

Ale Circus Company’s “VII” is an example of a show that focuses more on circus aesthetics. The group is headed in a similar direction as the Wrocław-based “Prometheus” that we also welcomed at our festival this year. They use the beauty and flexibility of body movement, the grace of acrobatics to make it visually attractive for the viewer, but one that goes beyond a simple demonstration. You have to work really hard in order to keep the message while offering it in a beautiful aesthetic, like “VII” does.

leading from the street show onto the stage, an opportunity to create a slightly more elaborate stage design compared with typical busker equipment. Another advantage was the fusion of techniques – building the figure of the juggler clown, good contact with the audience. And dropping typical juggling props, using... vegetables instead We had one more full show circus monodrama at the Incident. That was “Rabbit in HumanLand” by Tomasz Piotrowski, performing as AntiRabbity.

“VII” was what I was thinking of when I talked

Like in the other show, here too circus skills,

about the return of Polish alternative theatre

juggling and object manipulation were jazzed

traditions. A certain inevitable sadness emerges

up with theatrical solutions. The introduction

from the used forms: messianic themes,

of the stage design, plot, dialogue, performing

manifesting a rebellious stance. They use songs

in a mask – all this contributed to a cohesive,

by Jacek Kaczmarski, and the stage action

philosophising anti system tale.

builds parallel images, distant reminiscences

I’m describing these shows so broadly

with metaphors taken from the bard’s texts. The

because they differ from the ones that understand

creation of the world, giving it to the people.

theatre as their point of departure. The incident

As we know, not easy matters. Attempts at

has shown that in Poland, where there is no

invoking society, the constant battle of the

established tradition of integrating circus arts

individual against the collective and with one’s

into the theatre, the circus might function on

own weaknesses as well as systems imposed

the stage as a loose, non-codified collection of

on humans. Incorporating passing (a collective,

forms, associations, techniques. This means that

synchronised form of juggling with balls or clubs)

the group of artists consistently building their

in combination with acrobatics (in which Ale

shows around circus arts – and I’m thinking here

Circus Company excels) rhymes well with that.

of the incredibly small Polish representation that’s

Sometimes very literally, repetitively, sometimes

been working for years: Ocelot, Kejos, artists

completely departing from the substance of

associated with the Lublin-based Sztukmistrze

words, here they construct a large, multi-

Foundation – is joining with new artists. So there

person show that is indeed – as you’ve said

have been a few shows that can be called hybrid.

– visually attractive. The scathing (or perhaps

Circus has been combined with song theatre or

even feministic) punchline was intriguing. Also,

even music by Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy,

they broke up Kaczmarski with a pop cultural

with pantomime by Wrzące Ciała and with cabaret

reference from the song by Karolina Czarnecka

in the show by the trio Tres de La Nada.

that stigmatises superficiality and stupidity of the “modern times’’, but also posits a strong need for freedom, emancipation. This in turn went well with the expressivity of the phenomenal actress Nicole Lewicka, the only woman in the group. Another example: Kamil Żongler with the solo performance “Veggie” in which he tries his hand at the genre of clown monodrama that’s popular internationally. I think it’s a rather successful attempt, one that also starts out from

In the category of playful, light forms, we put forward the show “H2Oooops” by Tres de la Nada. It’s an interesting group with more experience in acting and cabaret than circus. The only person in this group with circus experience is Mirek Urban, but it’s not strictly stage experience, either. Their show reminds me of the group Theatre Irrwisch that comes to Carnaval. They are experienced theatre old-timers who decided to make circus-like shows. It’s something like an adaptation, in which circus


is a tool to be used but at the same time to laugh at. I will certainly follow the duo Wrzące Ciałe who presented the show “Death and Laughter”, demonstrating how you can play a clown using the language of the pantomime. It’s the initial step of encouraging the girls to delve deeper into the clown workshop – if they follow this path, they certainly have the courage and predispositions to find their own clown that’s different from the rest. I’ve seen a lot of contemporary clown acts and that’s why I had different expectations – I’m more fascinated by how much you are a clown, rather than how you play it. Provocation, trespassing – this is what contemporary clowning brings to my mind.

showed the dangers of social or systemic hatred towards exceptions.

Wrzące Ciała also had a well thought-out

It’s a show that fits any convention and one that should appear at all outdoor festivals in Poland. It’s a universal show that perfectly complements an outdoor programme and can be shown in any conditions – on an outdoor stage, in the street, in the theatre – and it will be a success everywhere. This is very important because when we create contemporary circus in Poland, we work more in egalitarian than elitist spaces. There is more interest and understanding for projects that don’t put up barriers in reception and less for experiments, conceptual circus art.

intellectual foundation. They know that for

What’s next for the Polish Incident?

philosophers, the clown-fool is dangerously close to Charon – the ferryman of the dead. It seems that they reached for a book about the deeper meaning of the jester figure. I like that this standard perspective of clowning and circus has been extended into the underworld. The grotesque skeleton dance, danse macabre, a skull with a red clown nose – those elements repeated several times during the Incident.

...coming back to “Death and Laughter”. Despite my initial expectations, I have to admit that it’s a professionally prepared show, well-acted, with good music, choreography and a narrative. What about Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy?

They, in turn, offer an example of a mixed genre, a good message conveyed in a language that does not create barriers. It’s hard to stay indifferent to “The Lion Man” – fast tempo, songs, words, good circus skills. And it’s a show broadly evokes the biography of Stefan Bibrowski, a Polish-born lion man performing in freak shows who built his career in the famous American circus Barnum & Bailey. But those are just distant echoes – the author of the script, Michał Walczak, wanted to create a rather witty commentary alluding to modernity that comes down to a very simple message. Through a simple story told in the

I believe that while The Polish Incident may not be a breakthrough, it does mark the beginning of a new phase. The artists are mostly young people – let’s give them time. They need experience: produced shows, confrontation with the audience. The idea for creating a Polish showcase, presenting Polish circus to selectors from western festivals had been cropping up for many years. But there was nothing from which to create such a showcase. Two or three shows were played at a given moment, others quickly faded into history. However this year has shown that there is such an opportunity, that for a number of artists contemporary circus isn’t just a fleeting adventure, but an idea, a way of permanent work. This year was also different for us as festival organisers. We took a risk. We held the festival in a different season, the weather was unfavourable and most shows were ticketed, we blocked the street, yet the audiences still came. We sold almost all tickets and were met with interest. Contemporary circus shows fill a certain gap, they’ve become a new recognisable category because, and this is my personal impression, street and alternative theatre do not speak to younger generations of spectators, becoming obsolete, turning into a historical phenomenon. I also think that there is a need for something new in the public space, in performing arts. The audiences have already noted the existence of contemporary circus. I hope that the next step will be getting the interest of other festivals. And then of institutions that will notice the existence of this new-old art.

convention of the pastiche and musical featuring the figures of oppressed and hounded freaks, the clown girl Szmira and the Lion man, Walczak




Pandem Carnava You waited an entire year for this event. It’s not an exaggeration or excessive coquetry to admit it. After all, this several-day-long world-class event is a recognisable regional brand both in Poland and abroad. Lublin ingeniously captures the spirit of Carnaval, when festival events animate the city’s squares, streets, districts and unobvious places. Every year brings incredible energy, a boom of ideas positively contributing to the development of this initiative. The world no longer imagines life without Carnaval Sztukmistrzów, it’s our alter ego that provides a relief from everyday life, it’s our joy of life rediscovered over and over again every year. Because of the pandemic, this year’s edition was on the ropes, which is all the more reason why the Organisers deserve praise and applause for coming up with a way to outplay the restrictions and thereby prevent breaking the continuity of Carnaval, a key event for a group of people associated with broadly defined topics of contemporary circus, theatre, dance or performing arts as well as for the yearning audience. This machine can no longer be stopped; at Carnaval, Lublin is swept into a frenzy of fun, laughter, admiration, emotions and delight. As spectators, consumers of events we want to be bombarded with impressions, we want to lose ourselves in joy and fun. Imagine a place in the world filled with uninhibited joy, where our hidden “I” rules and demands the existence of such an island of happiness, a space that invites us to a won-

derful fairy tale. Carnaval Sztukmistrzów is our most beautiful micro-homeland, a habitat of artists, freaks, clowns, misfits, that has been drifting on its ocean of happiness without interruption for the last 11 years. This year’s edition had to suppress a little of its artistic lust, to roll up and put away the repository of ideas threatened with the Damocles sword by the spectre of the epidemic and the many restrictions that followed it. This year’s edition did not change how the city vibrates, but it planted the seed of a new idea that combines art with safety requirements. “The Polish Incident” is a nod towards domestic Artists. Initially, the Incident was meant to be just a small part of Carnaval, hence a contest for the production and realisation of a show was announced. This is a treat for those who have nowhere to go with their ideas, hide the things they write in their drawers, have ready projects but don’t have the space to fulfill them or are wonderful talents that only need a small spark to emerge with their artistic products. “The Polish Incident” turned out to be a double bull’s eye! Firstly, the programme of this year’s Festival was possible to compose from Polish productions and secondly, this year’s edition revealed the enormous potential of domestic artists. The festival’s events were focused at several points around the city and instead of buskers in the streets, they performed on stage. There was no shortage of Carnaval’s “usual suspects” (Pan Ząbek,


mic al

Agnieszka “binia” Bińczycka

Marcin Ex Styczyński), but it was a great pleasure to see Dominika Osam-Gyaabin, Kari Panska, Krzysztof Kostera or the winners of the last edition of “Poland’s Got Talent” – Marysia i Julian. A mixture of talents and personalities and this year’s need to compress all street performers into one space made it possible to create a circus variety show. Every day in several venues we could see contemporary circus shows that were astounding in their richness of form, ideas on using circus skills and props, plot concept and production: among them were solo shows, Kamil Malecki’s “Veggie”, Tomasz Piotrowski’s “Rabbit in HumanLand”, duos: Warzące Ciała’s “Death and Laughter”, “The Kings of Entertainment” performed by Marcin Lipski and Milosz Budka or large-format productions, such as “H2Oooops” by Tres de la Nada”, “The Lion Man” directed by Michał Walczak, “The Fool’s Epitaph” by Kolektyw Kejos, “VII” performed by Ale Circus Dance Company and the acrobatic dance show “Prometheus”. The event was accompanied by a circus poster exhibition and, like every year, Urban Highline Festival. The event culminated in a concert performed by the bands: Dziady Kazimierskie & Rury Wydechowe and a meeting with the artists that summarised this year’s edition. Thirteen years have passed since Carnaval Szukmistrzów’s first edition. Few people still remember the small blue circus tent that was the centrepiece of the first Carnaval in Błonia near the Lublin Castle,

shows in po Farze Square, or guests from Germany – excellent champions of social circus, artists, and animators – Udo and Ilia. Starting from small audiences (initially consisting of caravaners or children linked to the circus pedagogy environment), the festival gradually grew larger, gaining the trust of audiences that over time it lured and enticed. I trust that “The Polish Incident” will become a permanent point on the map of future events of the festival. The Polish circus environment needs motivation and a place to present their productions, while artistic maturity and years of experiences show that after many years of sowing seeds, the time has come to “harvest the crops” and present them to wide audiences. ** And so, year after year, thanks to the Festival, Lublin plays out the journey of the Magician that goes full circle and takes him on many adventures to carry him back to Grodzka Gate.


The Clown is Dead, Long Live the Clown! Anna Viljanen Kultura Enter 2020, issue 97

To say that in the last several months our lives have been turned upside down is no small thing. Phineas Taylor Barnum, the godfather of circus art, provides these helpful words: “the noblest art is that of making others happy”. Was this year’s Carnaval Sztukmistrzów held under the name “The Polish Incident” happy? Here is an overview of the current state of the Polish circus scene, a special edition of Carnaval Sztukmistrzów, not just from necessity but also by choice.


The Three (out of Nowhere) who burst the bubble of tension The first performances were a little stiff, as if there was resistance. Everything appeared to be going well at first: people wearing funny masks with clown noses, signed health declarations, seats in the right distances from one another – but for many it was the first large event for several months. Stress was showing, and in people’s faces one could see the effects of social isolation. The audience, smothered by the smell of disinfectants, was filled with heavy, suffocating thoughts – What would it be like this year? Carnaval Sztukmistrzów has long attracted crowds so large that getting from The Lublin Castle to po Farze Square took at least a dozen minutes at best. And now? Even though the Old Town was once again filled up with people looking up to the sky in search of slackliners, crowds from previous editions were still nowhere

to be seen. And yet we were there, sitting and…. Then suddenly the artists from Tres de La Nada (Three out of Nowhere) grabbed a huge needle and with a huge bang came the first peals of laughter as the balloon of tension burst like an honorary salvo – the first, loudest cheer opening the celebrations of the Jester Festival. The trio consisting of Javier Hernández, Sergio Carrero and Jorge Moreno with graceful, charming absurdity cut the ribbon and opened “The Polish Incident” with their comedic and pantomimic street show “H2Oooops”. In their simple, but flavourful show of high, joyous quality, they do not spare our vocal chords while we laugh ourselves to tears as our tension ebbs away. “H2Oooops” is extremely inventive and at the same time disarmingly direct. With these pantomimes, it is impossible not to feel like a child visiting their first circus – just relax and eat popcorn, enjoy simple jokes and chant what the artists command. Under normal circumstances close interaction with the



audience would have a greater role, but even now, in this minimised version, it was still extremely satisfying, especially since for the artists it was a great opportunity to joke even while applying the required safety measures. And because all that is scary stops being so when laughed at – the mind somehow becomes calmer and the audience goes to the next show a lot more relaxed.

On the seventh day the Lord rested, but through the previous six – He danced There’s no other cause for eye-popping astonishment than to say that you attended a fantastic dance performance based on Jacek Kaczmarski’s music. It works like a charm. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a less “dance-like” music than compositions by the iconic bard of the Solidarity movement, but the situation looks a lot different when we treat that music as the foundation for a show. However, this is more than a classic celebration of beauty and the incredible acrobatic possibilities of the human body. Ale Circus Dance Company undoubtedly squeezed all they could, whilst presenting a world-class quality show. Kaczmarski’s “Raj” that tells the story of the creation of the world, man and angels literally commented on this dance and acrobatic pantomime. Despite light pauses between songs which slightly “cut” the flow of the show, the artists managed to create a cohesive whole. On the one hand they’ve created a metaphor for the oppressive, patriarchal order of things, and on the other – the creation of the world, from banishment from Eden until today. This predatory story, at times really dark, whirred with the flutter of angel wings. Feathers torn amidst screams fell among the fighting archangels dripping with wounds. Adam and Eve confidently showed what they could do with their daring equilibristics. An ordinary collective would probably stop at this, leaving the audience dreamy, thrown off balance and delighted. However, Ale Circus Company decided that a regular show would not be enough, and had a grand finale with a bang – hence the entire audience along with the men on the stage were floored upon seeing Nicole Lewicka levitating in a circle above their heads to the bass tunes of Karolina Czarniecka’s “Za siedmioma blokami”. The ultimate triumph of, at long last, a liberated woman is exactly the sort of finale I find immensely satisfying.

Run when Death is laughing and Wrzące Ciała are buzzing about I went to “Death and Laughter” by the duo Wrzące Ciała with mixed feelings and a sense of wariness because despite my love for culture in its various forms, I am very resistant to theatre (and new theatre even more so). But you don’t say no to Death, particularly when it looks at you so piercingly and waves its scythe to the rhythm of the Charleston. The show by Aleksandra Batko and Maja Rękawek is based on oppositions that have been known since the dawn of entertainment, namely the clown vs the gloomy Gus, laughter vs mourning, life vs death. It’s a dialogue without words so expressive that even children understand it perfectly. The artists were not afraid of crossing the boundaries of comfort zones – both their own and those of the audience, playing with conventions, exaggerated gestures and presenting artistic performances bordering on commedia dell’arte. Personally, I like that aspect but I realise that others could see it as the performance’s greatest flaw. The form aside, another aspect is vital – the most important were emotions. The feelings and moods that swept the audience with nearly superhuman amplitude frequently changed gear from euphoria to despair – and all that in a matter of seconds. Death and Fool played us like instruments that are slightly out of tune but ready. Paweł Odorowicz’s perfectly matched compositions added extra flavour to the performance. A long time ago master Polycarp declared that in the face of death (especially of the dancing variety), everyone is equal and it will strangle everyone sooner or later. But why not get to know it better and perhaps even become friends with it?

Divide et impera, oh King of Entertainment Carnaval Sztukmistrzów has a different appeal for every person. The variety of forms and repertoires offers something for everyone. This year’s formula of the festival could dishearten enthusiasts of classic, improvised street shows and laughter provoked by interactions. But Marcin Lipski and Miłosz Budka did not let us fall into the abyss of despair – in their act “The Kings of Entertainment” they briskly grabbed the gloomy Guses


by the collars and threw them mercilessly smack dab in the middle of their own colourful, lively and heated argument full of name-calling. Energy flowed like a rapid stream along the rows of seats arranged according to regulations and allowed us to forget about their existence, to feel as if the crowds were gathering and pushing in the street instead. The problem presented by the show seems simple, but it’s undoubtedly fraught with emotions – there can be only one king of entertainment, the throne is narrow and the crown can’t fit two heads. The world is too small for two kings so into their charming battle for ruling over laughter they drag the audience whose cheers are the literal jury of the contest and work like drugs. They divide and conquer. How does it all end? The outcome is different every time. It depends on the audience – they take turns winning... But the end is always the same – the blue and red corners of the ring ultimately converge and turn purple.

The clown is dead, long live the clown! The jester has always been in the shadows, even in the middle of a stage. The jester has always observed. For years, hiding their faces behind a thick layer of makeup and exaggerated facial expressions, they watched and read the moods. They always had to blend in perfectly – even one careless or failed joke could cost them their heads. Every wig, costume and cap and bells hid an intelligent, perceptive person whose unknown fate pushed them into this particular profession. They existed to provoke laughter, even when seeing what was happening at courts made them want to hang their heads, clasp hands in their laps like the Polish Stańczyk and once and for all wipe that permanent smile off their faces. Kolektyw Kejos shifted the point of interest or perhaps juggled it magnificently to finally put the jester at the centre of attention. The jester’s remains have been dug out in a post-apocalyptic world, at long last someone has taken notice. Now the jesters have the chance to speak and no one can stop them. They will tell their story, a story that everyone overlooked, that served only as a background, a reflection of the world, but one that was clear, vivid and expressive. It is a story of always standing in the back, observing events around the world, ready to laugh and mock what called for it. We are no longer dealing with a series of empty tricks, vacuous laughter, and one-sided playfulness. Instead, we get a tale woven in Shakespeare’s language, full of delightful choreography, visual arts and multimedia, and an incredible concord between all Jesters, where the

word no longer carries any negative connotations. The current Jester is one with a capital J, still a little fearful but rather proud of who they are because they have survived the Elizabethan times when a failed performance could end with reactions far worse than booing. On the one hand, “The Fool’s Epitaph’ leaves us with a delicious want and a desire to reach once again for all of Shakespeare’s plays just to pay attention to these figures. On the other hand, there’s this unsettling thought: just a second. I’m sitting here on this chair with the expectation to be entertained, just like everyone else throughout the ages. So why are they looking at me weird like that?

Follow the White Rabbit, Neo! No curious resident of the Matrix will be able to resist such a command. If Carnaval Sztukmistrzów deserved the label creepy at any moment in its long history, then it must have been when AntiRabbity Tomasz Piotrowski entered the stage. This man hides underneath a psychedelic rabbit mask (or at least I hope so because I was too afraid to check after the show) and has created a dystopia that no mind can resist. The show is a unique combination of bitter science fiction and contemporary circus. Everyone knows the famous Alice from Lewis Carroll’s book, and her adventures in Wonderland can give the shivers even (or perhaps especially) to adults. This time, a reverse situation has taken place – our world, Earth, welcomes a guest from that other dimension. He has brought along advertising banners, information brochures, excellent displays of visual manipulations and lightshow, as well as hypnotic trance music. All this to present himself as best as possible and recruit new residents – subjects for his Queen, whose voice, dripping with sweetness and cruelty, leads the spectator by the nose throughout the entire show. Under its influence, the White Rabbit wanders around the stage feeling a little lost. On the one hand, the Red Queen is far away and he should be safer in this weird, technological world but on the other hand, her presence and control over the show is so tangible that it seems like she might suddenly jump out from one of the many doors at Workshops of Culture, where the show was performed. And then no spectator would sit still, everyone would surely make a run for it.


Freaks of the world unite! This one sentence sums up the performance by Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy. Freak shows undoubtedly belong to the darkest and most shameful cards in the history of the circus, but it cannot be denied that they enjoyed great popularity, especially at the beginning of the 20th century. We travelled back to those times together with the eponymous “The Lion Man” – his character is an almost biographical tribute to Stefan Bibrowski, the American freak show star with Polish roots. He suffered from hypertrichosis, also descriptively called the “werewolf syndrome”, characterised by excessive hair growth on the whole body – a symptom difficult to diagnose even today, let alone then. However, Stefan dazzled the legendary P.T. Barnum and it was with his circus, Barnum & Bailey, that Bibrowski toured the entire world presenting his lush, light hair. Judging from the fact that he supposedly knew five languages, dressed extremely elegantly and displayed charming manners, his real-life direct superior must have been much kinder and more cooperative than the freak show owner presented in the performance. Maciej Czarski who played the Freak Hunter, a cruel, despicable man full of superficial self-adoration lined with lack of self-acceptance, showed off the wide range of his rapacious acting skills. It was his character who hunted down and imprisoned both the eponymous protagonist (played by Antek Borodziuk) and the clown girl (in this role Hanna Klepacka) who was disarming with her joyful, curious and direct way of being. The tensions got much more intense when romance straight from “Beauty and the Beast” entered the picture. It is also impossible not to get the impression that aside from the literal layer, the lion men (both the protagonist of the show and the historical figure) hide deeper meaning, whether it be in relation to the current pandemic and political situation or certain social problems that stir so many emotions that it has become difficult to allude to them in any other manner but through a joke. But isn’t this what circus is for? Carnaval started, ran its course and then it was over, leaving behind Facebook livestreams and a very pleasant lightness of the heart that had been forgotten and not felt for many months. Yes, it’s true: COVID has hit the clown. Hard. But, the Clown is dead, so long live the Clown! They have just got up... and what are they doing? Probably giving the virus the finger...


post scr




“Taking part in The Polish Incident has given our duo the opportunity to produce our own debut show that has resulted from our joint workshops, practices and experiences acquired in the broadly defined field of physical theatre.The performance has had a chance to be born on the stage. The festival has created a space for us to broaden our horizons, present our creative expressivity and “infect” others with it, which for an artist is nothing less than an amazing experience.” Aleksandra and Maja / Wrzące Ciała

“The Polish Incident, this year’s iteration of Carnaval Sztukmistrzów, was for me, personally and artistically, a truly unique event. It was my first time performing at this festival, and that was special because since its first edition I’d always thought that it would be nice to perform here one day and it finally happened. Let’s add that this was my first original show, my first time doing something on the stage for such a long time and possibly my first time working this intensely on a project. All this could happen largely thanks to you, your work and the trust you have given me.” Tomasz Piotrowski / AntiRabbity


“Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to meet with the Polish audience. It was our first performance in Poland and we will remember it for a very long time. The professional handling of the festival and the taste of “cebularz” are what we couldn’t forget on our way back to Spain. Regards from Pamplona. Gracias Lublin!” Tres de la Nada

“The incident was an impulse It was an impulse to act. The acting worked and here I am, Veggie. A unique event. The accompanying challenges, struggles with oneself and confronting them with the public gives power. What’s even better is that you’re not alone in this. The first Polish Showcase of Contemporary Circus Shows was certainly a milestone for my work, thank you!.” Kamil Malecki / Kamil Żongler

“If not for the Polish Incident, this cooperation would not have been born. We had thought about “Kings” for a long time, but there was no spark to initiate it until Carnaval – we want to warmly thank you for that! We always say that a performance shouldn’t just appeal to the audience, but it should also be fun for the artists. “The Kings of Entertainment” combine these two elements, so we wish you, and ourselves, to have the opportunity to take part in this show.” Marcin Lipski and Miłosz Budka


”The Incident has most of all given us an opportunity to create a new show in a line-up in which we can develop it for the next several years and we certainly won’t reach the limit very soon. The incident has given us a chance to see how we work together and it has turned out great! As far as the event is concerned, it would be nice to write that it has given us a chance to see what shows by other Polish artists look like, but sadly most of us were in this or other way involved in other projects. And compliments for the videos (beautifully edited recordings that were a pleasure to watch). The Incident was also a great opportunity to meet with other artists and exchange experiences. Of course, it was also a chance to meet other people from within and outside the circus industry, We think that this year’s Carnaval has fulfilled its role and stirred Polish community into action, resulting in the creation of some

“The Polish incident is a fantastic idea that

very interesting productions.

has activated Polish new circus community

Thank you for your vote of confidence and for

and allowed a group of artists associated

the opportunity to be a part of this event!.”

with Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy to create a circus musical in the difficult time

Maciej Czarski / Ale Circus Dance Company

of the pandemic. The meeting of the actress and composer Hanna Klepacka and new circus artists: Antoni Borodziuk and Maciej Czarski has resulted in a mutual exchange of ideas and positive “infection” – new circus has been infected with music and acting, and theatre with clowning. New circus as an innovative medium where tradition meets the art of the future and the intellect meets the body is a branch of performing arts with a great potential for development that especially in times of crisis deserves promotion, attention and support. Thanks to that, subsequent Polish circus arts will be more and more professional, original and noticed by decision makers who grant funding for culture.” Michał Walczak / Warszawski Cyrk Magii i Ściemy


”Participating in The Polish Incident was for our group an opportunity to present the results of the three-month-long romance of circus and Shakespeare in our blue tent in Opatowice in Wrocław. We consumed the fruit of that love in Dominikański Square in Lublin in the presence of several dozen witnesses and several sets of cameras. The confrontation of our work with the audience was a very important test of our efforts. It not only gave us energy for further work, but also direction in which we want to head. In our opinion, the uniqueness of the Incident lies in the fact that we were one of many such groups that gathered in Lublin towards the end of September. Thanks to the support of the organisers, new circus shows have been created on a scale unprecedented in Poland. It gives us hope for further development of the contemporary circus community in Poland.” Adam Banach / Kolektyw KEJOS

organizatorzy / organizers:

Carnaval Sztukmistrzów | The Polish Incident 2020 took place in Lublin between 17-20 September 2020 and online 21-30.09.2020 Organiser: Ludic Culture and Art Department

partnerzy / partners: Workshops of Culture in Lublin Publisher: Warsztaty Kultury w Lublinie ul. Grodzka 5a, 20-112 Lublin +48 81 466 59 08 Editor:

Iwona Kornet patroni medialni / media patronage: Collaboration and Assistance: Marcelina Gzyl Proofreading: Agata Fijuth-Dudek Translation: Małgorzata Stanek Design and typesetting:

sponsorzy / sponsors:

Ewelina Kruszewska Typeface in used:

Archivo Black, Geller Sans The publication contains quotes from reviews published at by Agnieszka Bińczycka

Zdjęcia photos: Franek Goszczyński

16, 17, 26, 27, 32, 33, 46, 47, 76, 99, 102, 103, Katarzyna Motek

3, 8, 9, 20, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 61, 77, 99, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 123, 149 Bartłomiej Nowakowski

26, 27, 38, 39, 42, 43, 46,47, 54, 76, 81, 120, 121, 122 Natalia Ogłoszka

6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 24, 25, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 58, 59, 64, 65, 66, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 78, 79, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 90, 91, 92, 83, 94, 96, 97, 100, 101, 102, 103, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 123, 124, 125, 126, 129, 136, 137, 141, 142, 146, 148, 149, 150, 151



media patronage


The project has been co-funded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage