Fantasma (Phantasm)

Phantasm is a play about the experience, the wistfulness and the unpleasant after-effects of situations that have come to an end. Only when Chinese communism is suddenly replaced by capitalism can we see it clearly, can we genuinely perceive it in its absence. Precisely this paradox of ‘experience’ also confronts two lovers in the play by René Pollesch. They feel closer to one another after they split up, much closer than back then with all the sex, the touching, the constant being together. The director and author René Pollesch has borrowed the term ‘phantasm’ from the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben in order to back up his theatre of discourse for six performers with a challenging metaphor drawn from a critique of capitalism. In a genre mix that is as virtuosic as it is amusing, simultaneously a comedy, a detective story, a trashy film and a philosophical sextet, the eloquent protagonists sense they have not been living their real lives for a long time, but merely allowing those lives to be lived. The yearning for the phantasm awakens.
(Nachtkritik über Mülheimer Theatertage „Stücke ‚09“)
Responses to the play:
‘Both in the natural sciences and the humanities, it has been discussed increasingly in the last few years whether a realistic contemporary perception of the world really should primarily draw on logic and the rationally comprehensible, or whether the capacity for unorthodox, associative, contradictory thought, i.e. the capacity to look at problems from perspectives that are anything but obvious, does not offer a better way of accounting for the phenomena of nature and civilisation.

In Phantasm, which Pollesch directed at the Akademietheater, he elaborates on this approach to ask whether what we call reality is not much more authentic in the imagination than it is in the presence of so-called facts and experiences. With the combination of global and private problems, intellectual discourses and hackneyed set-pieces from the world of entertainment that is so typical of his work, enervating comedy is used to repeatedly raise questions about why clarity and reason fail so horribly again and again in practice – both in the economy and in love. […] Of course, the philosophical inspiration from Boris Groys, Slavoj Zizek and Giorgio Agamben on which the play is founded […] is not discussed academically, but made to resound by means of satire. […] And Pollesch succeeds in doing this with a bizarre combination of detective story, silent film, seminar, music hall and melodrama, which he scripts with off-beat ideas in a funny, apposite, gallant fashion.’
(Till Briegleb, Mülheimer Theatertage 2009)
Technical data:
Premiere: 6 December 2008, Akademietheater Vienna
Director: René Pollesch
Cast: Variable
Rights: Rowohlt Theaterverlag
Translations: Theatre Library