I shall go to some other land, 
I shall go to some other sea. 
Another city there must be, better than this. 
My every effort here is a sentence of condemnation against me. 
and my heart —like a corpse—lies buried.
Konstandinos Kavafis, “The City” 

[poem translated by: George Valassopoulo; source: The Forster-Cavafy Letters, ed. Peter Jeffreys, American University in Cairo Press, Cairo – New York, 2009]


Famed for its legendary street theatre production of Carmen Funebre that explored the atrocities of war, Teatr Biuro Podróży picks up the subject yet another time.

Set in the context of carnage and ethnic cleansing happening daily in the Middle East, which results in an exodus of people to the safe havens in Europe, Teatr Biuro Podróży’s Silence tells the story of people who will soon become refugees. After Carmen Funebre, which was directly inspired by the war in Bosnia / Yugoslavia, it seemed impossible that anything worse could possibly happen in the present-day world. However, the reality has exceeded anybody’s imagination. At present, we are witnessing the phenomenon of an unparalleled scale, which evokes concern and fear in Europe. Do we have anything to fear?

Teatr Biuro Podróży observes the situation from the vantage point of the residents of the besieged city – modern Troy – hit by bombs, and a man who would not have thought a few years ago that he would become a refugee. The protagonists of the performance are the children – innocent witnesses of the death of their close friends and family and victims of hunger and displacement. For the sake of these children and their future peace of mind, let’s try to put ourselves in their shoes for a while. 

The performance was commissioned by Greenwich+Docklands International Festival/London and Hull UK City of Culture 2017 / Freedom Festival, in co-production with GDIF.


Silence is the sequel and a kind of a reverse of Carmen Funebre, the legendary street performance by Paweł Szkotak. Biuro Podróży’s Carmen was created during the war in Bosnia, while the spark that ignited the thinking about Silence was provided by the civil war in Syria. If Carmen treats of wandering, an impossible escape from war and ruins, then Silence revolves around the futility of endurance in the times of the Apocalypse. The atmosphere permeating Biuro’s new (…) performance is distinctly different from Carmen Funebre, created all those years ago, although the group intentionally quotes images from their past show. Now, it seems that all hope has since disappeared, because every image – based around certain values (love, family, tradition, security, home, art) – is immediately wiped out and nipped in the bud. Carmen, in all its horror of the world on fire, its literal sense of violence, and its theme of persecution, still left a ray of light in the darkness, and we felt that no matter what, life would rise from the ashes, people would try again. Here in Silence, nobody believes it anymore. Szkotak only sees the futility of trying to save a place where life has always been present, as if he understood that whatever we do, it will eventually cease to exist.

Crowds that have watched Carmen for over two decades on squares adapted for theatre purposes around Poland or Europe has played a special role written by Szkotak especially for them: they became, when necessary, a group of refugees or a band of torturers. And, most often, a group of onlookers terrified by their own passivity, with a dangerous thought racing through their minds: what would happen if such a war came to us? A conditional mode was necessary for the emotional involvement in that performance. A not so distant Bosnia, however, was further then than Syria is now. Today, Silence is watched by half the number of viewers. Not only because street theatre has become more elitist. The silence of absent viewers is something a thousand times more terrible than the silence of the audience ashamed of their own indifference to the tragedy around them. Nobody wants to hear the story of the fall of modern Troy. No one cares. Even the artists who remember, alarm, and point to analogies are unnecessary. The myth – just as the real cities and people – dies in perfect silence.

The outdoor presentation of the performance by Biuro Podróży is a reference to the first editions of the Confrontations Festival, when the Festival was opened by shows presented in Zamkowy Square in Lublin (e.g. The Arch by The Eighth-Day Theatre). 

Łukasz Drewniak, co-curator of Theatre Confrontations


Paweł Szkotak

Founder and director of one of the most interesting and recognizable Polish alternative theatres in the world – Poznań’s Biuro Podróży Theatre (since 1988). Creator and director of the “Masks” Festival (1997-2014); Creator, director and curator of the International Theatre Festival “Bliscy Nieznajomi” [Close Strangers] and the “Metafory rzeczywistości” [Metaphors of Reality] competition (2008-2015); director of the Polish Theatre in Poznań (2003–2015); President of the Association of Theatre Directors (since 2015); director of theatre and opera productions. For the Biuro Podróży Theatre, he directed, among others Giordano, Carmen Funebre, The Saragossa Manuscript (free interpretation of the 18th century novel by J. Potocki), Planet Lem, Silence. He has also staged performances in drama theatres, including Anna Karenina by L. Tolstoy (Studio Theatre in Warsaw), The Man Outside by W. Borchert (Współczesny Theatre in Wrocław), Othello (Polski Theatre in Poznań), as well as operas: Eugene Onegin by P. Tchaikovsky (Grand Theatre in Łódź) and The Last Judgment (Baltic Opera in Gdańsk).

Recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Cross of Merit and Polityka’s Passport.



This is a memorial for millions of people who have not been able to become “a refugee problem” in Europe.

Gudrun Mattern, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) 

Teatr Biuro Podróży proves once again that outdoor theatre needs not only be impressive, but it can also use its tools for a greater cause. 

Stanisław Godlewski, Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland)

There are so many gasp-worthy visual pictures created in this windy yard in Edinburgh. We shiver with the cold, but also because of the spine-chilling images unfolding. Without wishing to reveal the ending, I will just say that the image / physical action chosen, which conjures up the plight of those escaping war by trying to cross the seas on flimsy boats, is devastatingly beautiful. 

Dorothy Max Prior, Total Theatre Magazine (Scotland)