The Trial

Krystian Lupa, Nowy Teatr

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‘Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.’ These are the legendary opening lines of Franz Kafka’s The Trial (1925). Polish director Krystian Lupa – Krzysztof Warlikowski’s mentor, among others – makes a cinematic performance based on this oppressive novel and Kafka’s letters and diaries. He does so at a time when Poland’s ultra-conservative government is causing kafkaesque situations in the country. On what grounds was Josef K. arrested? Is he guilty? At a certain point he no longer knows himself. With video, a large cast and his characteristic eye for humankind’s hypocrisy, Lupa shows the relevance of Kafka’s work.

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background information

The acclaimed Polish director Krystian Lupa will be appearing at Holland Festival with The Trial. This film-like, five-hour long theatre experience is a stinging critique of the rise of extreme nationalism

 in Poland. The play itself is based on The Trial (1925), Franz Kafka’s iconic novel, and is complemented by extracts from Kafka’s letters and diaries. The Trial depicts a paranoid world where one morning the main character, the naive bank clerk Josef K., is arrested for an unknown crime. K. believes in the power of the law, but he ends up in a surreal spiral of impenetrable court cases, icy bureaucracy and absurd rules. Everything that K. employs to prove his innocence is used against him in some bizarre way and he gets tangled in a net of ridiculous allegations. A worn-down K. is eventually taken away and executed, his ‘crime’ remaining a mystery. The important influence of Kafka’s work saw the coining of a new adjective after his death: Kafkaesque, ‘oppressive and alienating, such as the tone of the novels of writer Franz Kafka’.

For a long time Lupa kept his distance from Kafka, as by his own admission he was scared of him. ‘I was scared of his negativity, his power, his depression, his nihilism. I don’t produce plays to describe how everything is wrong in the world. I create plays that convey the possibility of positive thought. Kafka however is one of the few writers, perhaps the only one, whose work is perniciously narrative yet at the same time extremely radical. A mystery worth exploring.’ Lupa is responsible for the production’s direction, adaptation, staging and lighting. Typical of Lupa’s style is the transparency with which actor and role converge almost entirely, making even the slightest psychological nuances and contradictions visible.

Lupa began rehearsals for The Trial in 2016 with another theatre company, Teatr Polski in Wrocław, but this abruptly came to an end after a new artistic director was appointed who was more in line with the ultra-conservative government. With support from various theatres both in Poland and abroad Lupa was nonetheless able to put on his production, all while the rise of radical nationalism and extreme right-wing politics in Poland sees the country follow an increasingly Kafkaesque path, an ongoing trend the result of which is The Trial. With video projections, a seventeen-strong cast and his keen eye for hypocrisy, Lupa highlights the contemporary relevance of Kafka's work, posing the question ‘what if Kafka’s work did become reality?’.




The Polish theatre company Nowy Teatr was established in Warsaw in 2008 by director Krzysztof Warlikowski. Since its debut production (A)pollonia (2009), directed by Warlikowski and based on the

 works of Aeschylus, Euripides and Hanna Krall, the twenty-strong company is one of the most progressive theatre ensembles in Poland. After a slightly nomadic start, the group has been permanently based at a renovated former garage in the Mokotów neighbourhood of Warsaw since 2016. Nowy Teatr is a thriving cultural centre, and alongside theatre productions it organises concerts, exhibitions, educational projects, workshops and lectures. It provides artists and curators with a free space, specially created by people with ideas. The ensemble’s main aim is to create a meaningful dialogue with the audience. To do this Nowy Teatr often turns to provocation and is not afraid of tackling uncomfortable subject matter. The company provides a space for imagination that is interdisciplinary and free from division and bias. Their mantra is: Come. Watch. Think. 


Director Krystian Lupa (Jastrzębie Zdrój, 1943) is one of Poland’s most celebrated and influential theatre producers. He studied physics at the Jagiellonian University (Kraków) and graphic design at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. Lupa later studied directing at the National Film School in Łódź and the Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts. Lupa debuted in 1976 with Sławomir Mrożek’s Rzeznia (The Slaughterhouse). He learned about textual analysis and directorial technique through his work with the Polish theatre giant Konrad Swinarski and was heavily influenced by the work of theatre legend Tadeusz Kantor, whose happening-esque style gave new meaning to the role of actors. It is the work of the psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and philosopher Carl Jung however that has been the most crucial influence of all on Lupa’s development. He has called Jung a gnostic mystic, ‘a master of the path to the truth’. Over the course of his career Lupa has received prestigious honours such as the Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunst of Austria, France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Italian Premio Europa per il Teatro, as well as awards from the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Polish Culture Foundation. As a director he has been linked to numerous theatres in Warsaw and has been a mentor to many influential Polish theatre producers, including Krzysztof Warlikowski and Grzegorz Jarzyna.




Franz Kafka
translation (Polish)
Jakub Ekier
direction, adaptation, scenography, light
Krystian Lupa
Piotr Skiba
Bogumił Misala
video, light
Bartosz Nalazek
Kamil Polak
make-up, hair
Monika Kaleta, Joanna Tomaszycka
Krystian Lupa, Andrzej Kłak, Marta Zięba, Marcin Pempuś, Adam Szczyszczaj, Małgorzata Gorol, Radosław Stępień
dramaturgy collaboration, assistant director
Radosław Stępień, Konrad Hetel
video assistant, camera operator
Natan Berkowicz
costume assistant
Aleksandra Harasimowicz
porn book illustration, portrait of the attorney
Andrzej Kłak
Titorelli’s desolate landscape
Ninel Kameraz-Kos
Bożena Baranowska, Maciej Charyton, Małgorzata Gorol, Anna Ilczuk, Mikołaj Jodliński, Andrzej Kłak, Dariusz Maj, Michał Opaliński, Marcin Pempuś, Halina Rasiakówna, Piotr Skiba, Ewa Skibińska, Adam Szczyszczaj,Andrzej Szeremeta, Wojciech Ziemiański, Marta Zięba, Ewelina Żak
stage manager, camera operator
Łukasz Jóźków
head of production
Anna Czerniawska
coordinator, production assistant
Sylwia Merk
translation (English)
Dominika Gajewska, Artur Zapałowski
Adrianna Książek
lighting technician
Tadeusz Perkowski
sound technicians
Radosław Symon, Piotr Żyła
video technician
Andrzej Lawdański
Mateusz Andracki
Iryna Kacharava, Sylwia Szefer
stage services
Jakub Płoński, Robert Tomala
chief producer
Nowy Teatr
STUDIO teatrgaleria, Teatr Powszechny, TR Warszawa, Le Quai Centre Dramatique National Angers Pays de la Loire
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Bruxelles; Printemps des Comédiens, Montpellier; Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, Paris; Festival d’Automne à Paris; La Filature, Scène nationale – Mulhouse; Théâtre du Nord, Lille; La rose des vents - Scène nationale Lille Métropole Villeneuve-d’Ascq; HELLERAU - Europäisches Zentrum der Künste Dresden; Onassis Stegi
Teatr Polski w Podziemiu
co-financed by
Miasto Stołeczne Warszawa

This performance was made possible with support by