Dublin Theatre Festival 2018: Fantasia
Polish artist Anna Karasińska’s “Fantasia” sets about re-positioning the theatrical frame. For this is post theatre. Not to be confused with post-dramatic theatre. It’s all about bodies performing in a space to other bodies and a detailed deconstruction of the conventions governing that. Such as suspension of disbelief, the blurring of lines between actor and character, how we frame what we see and at what cost, and the role of text. Smart, clever, if overly long, “Fantasia” might speak only to the theatrical nerd who wants to see behind the wizard's curtain, but it speaks very softly and very eloquently.
Indeed Karasińska’s clever deconstruction raises a host of questions about theatre and textuality. Six actors take instructions from Karasińska seated in the audience and execute minimal actions in response. The conventions appear immediately, with each performer’s gaze fixed rigidly on whoever’s name is called out, focusing attention compositionally. Yet it soon feels like an over-extended improvisational game, though one raising fascinating possibilities. The possibility that the action on stage always needs a frame, even a textual frame. Remove the text and it might not always be clear what you’re looking at. Equally, words can open up imaginative possibilities that the minimalist action on stage fails to convey. Close your eyes and you're most likely to imagine something completely different from what you’re being shown. So how much of what is created is being evoked? And how much is pure projection on our part?
“Fantasia” is a show purely for the theater aficionado, for those who wonder how we create images and meaning on stage, and how meaning and images can change as a result of repetition and the accumulation of information. Yet as a game it runs into unnecessary extra time. Yet if “Fantasia” is a slow burn, it’s a genuinely fascinating and utterly charming slow burner. It’s all a game. It’s all a frame. None of it really happened. None of these people exist. Even though all of it exists.
“Fantasia” by Anna Karasińska/TR Warszawa, ran at The Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2018