Previous productions


Sandy Grierson as Orestes (image by Tim Morozzo)

'...the performance has a physical, aural and visual intensity that burns itself onto the mind. ... Grierson remains perhaps the most compelling performer on the Scottish stage today; a man who can invite audiences to watch him undertaking what's really an exercise in extreme theatre, and still deliver a performance to remember, and to debate.' Joyce McMillan

'Arriving onstage only a week after the Tron's equally battlescarred take on Antigone, Lazzi's version never pushes its allusions, remaining faithful to Robert Potter's 1886 translation. This is no antiquity, though, but remains intense, demanding and quite possibly the most adventurous and unique piece of theatre ever seen in Cumbernauld.' Neil Cooper

A new adaptation of the Oresteia, classic trilogy by Aeschylus in a solo performance starring Sandy Grierson, directed by David WW Johnstone. Sound by Davey Anderson, costume by Leah Lovett. Produced by Ed Robson as part of Cumbernauld Theatre's nucleus programme, and premiered at Cumbernauld Theatre in October 2007. Further run at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh March 2008.

Lazzi’s production of the Oresteia was an elegantly classical yet astonishingly real rendition of Aeschylus’ tragic trilogy: Agamemnon, The Choephorae and The Furies dating from 458 BC. In this adaptation, the hero, Orestes, appears before us, his judges, to answer to the crime of matricide. Sandy Grierson (Best Actor Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland 2007) played Orestes in an intense solo portrayal that tested the limits of physical performance as it plunges the audience directly into Aeschylus’ timeless themes of revenge, torture, guilt and justice. Robert Potter’s 1886 translation has been pared down to an absolute minimum. Staged with extreme simplicity, with a haunting soundtrack by Davey Anderson (Black Watch).

Devised by David W W Johnstone and Sandy Grierson, Lazzi’s Oresteia was originally produced through the Nucleus programme at Cumbernauld Theatre.

Read The Scotman review by JoyceMcMillan
Read The Herald review by Neil Cooper

'What just might be one of the most exciting experimental shows to emerge from Scottish theatre this year'. Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman


image: Radiate, Alastair Clark, 2008

‘Beautiful, tender and understated performances... a truly original new work’
Chrys Salt, Stage Further Festival 2007

You glimpse the phenomenal... can you remain the same? Seeing the aurora borealis – it’s one of those rare, sought-after, magical experiences. This production explores how such encounters change behaviour, personality and vision. It is performed in Lazzi’s unforgettable style, skilfully combining improvisation and abstraction, simplicity and joy... with all the imaginative, surprising touches that audiences have come to expect from this innovative theatre company. Performed in natural light, Aurora Borealis is a gentle and moving exploration of character, anticipation, and enlightenment.

Devised and directed by David W W Johnstone, with Clive Nicholas Andrews and Charlotte Jarvis
Developed and first performed during an artist residency at Dancebase, Edinburgh
First public performance at Stage Further Festival, 2007
Performed at Dance Base, Edinburgh Festival, August 2008.


alcymestre by Alan Chapman

On a Fringe full of hard-faced analyses of personal and global politics, and then again of desperate showbiz efforts to entertain, it's a sheer joy to come across a performance so sweetly, confidently and unashamedly absurdist as this fine 70-minute tribute to the life and work of the troubled Polish artist, playwright and thinker, Stanislaw Witkiewicz. … a simple but surprisingly beautiful-looking show that makes powerful use of coloured light, shadow and movement. Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

Devised and directed by David WW Johnstone
Performed by David WW Johnstone and Sandy Grierson

Witkacy : Sandy Grierson
Direktor/Psychiatrist/Witkacy : David WW Johnstone

'Witkacy, Witkacy, and once more Witkacy. He is such an interesting writer. He should have a theater devoted to him, and we want to become such a theatre.' Tadeusz Kantor, 1961

'Witkacy was understood only by a few - maybe, because we were all still before, while he was already after.' Jan Kott, 1968

The Scotsman preview feature
The Evening News feature

This performance project brings to the attention of Western audiences a truly great but often neglected artist of the 20th Century. Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885-1939) was a pioneer of the avant-garde and is a hero of the cultural conscience of Poland. His writings, paintings and photography broke new ground with bold originality. His work predates that of Ionesco, Genet, Beckett, and Brecht in the surrealist movement of the European theatre.

An intellect with myriad talents and interests, he was not immediately appreciated. Some thought him interesting and innovative, but most considered him a dilettante or even a fraud. Perhaps as a reaction he developed himself into a flamboyant, fragmented and enigmatic personality, almost like one of the abstract characters in his plays. His eccentricities, and his arrogance, became legendary. However, Witkacy’s contribution to world culture, Polish culture, and the 20th Century surrealist avant-garde remains.

Witkacy Idiota examines this unique and bizarre life, extracting images from his works, particularly The Madman and the Nun, in which a troubled poet is subjected to cruel therapy in a mental asylum. The word 'idiota' is Russian and a reference to Dostoyevsky’s Idiot – the appropriateness of this comment to be demonstrated in a black humour.

Rather than perform one of Witkacy’s own plays, Lazzi are creating a collage of the man and his work, an autobiographical sketching in the stylistic spirit of Witkacy himself. The life and work of Witkacy are portrayed not in a linear or realistic way, but in the ‘absurd’ manner of an abstract painting. The piece explores, and attempts to play ‘pure form’. The form of the piece offers images through which an understanding of the man can be derived. Discontinuities, parody, silliness, intensity. The unknown is full of surprises.

Artistic director, David W W Johnstone writes:

Why Witkacy? Yes I do honestly feel that I have spent half my life with Witkacy. I was first introduced to him by Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski in 1980, when as part of my theatre training (as a member of the Ossetynski Actors Lab) we began to work scenes from The Madman and the Nun as a class exercise. The weirdness of this play and the difficulty in playing it led me to read others of his plays. They are all weird - and required diligent and exasperating stretches of one's imagination. We worked on Madman for three years, then invited half a dozen academics to witness what would be our only performance. All of us involved felt that our little show approached the spirit of Witkacy, but did not quite fully capture it. I have been wrestling with his spectre ever since.

The OAL later produced Witkacy's Matka in a Los Angeles theatre (in 1983) to great success. It starred Polish theatre and film star Barbara Krafftowna in the title role. (I was required to teach her the role phonetically as she spoke not a word of English.) I have been teaching in the theatre myself for a dozen years, and I always reckoned I would tackle Witkacy again when I had the right group to work with. My theatre group Lazzi was formed in 1995 and Sandy Grierson was the first actor, formerly my student, to express similar interest. Sandy and I worked together on my play Mr Pinocchio and he shares a passion for Commedia Dell' Arte, street theatre and the Polish surrealist theatre.

We began working on The Madman and the Nun sporadically a couple of years ago as a training exercise. Curiously, some Polish friends of mine thought it a much better idea to do an original show about Witkacy, about his controversial life and legacy, 'in the Lazzi style', rather than simply produce one of the plays. The idea took root in me and Witkacy Idiota is the result. The 'idiota' is Russian and reflects Dostoyevsky's novel. We hope to capture the spirit of Witkacy in this world premiere, although he will forever remain elusive. And I hope the spirit of Mr Ossetynski will be amused. Am I doing justice to Witkacy? Truth is, I'm not trying to. I am playing with him, impishly and lovingly. Like him, I am something of a naughty clown.

The Lazzi company members for this performance project have both had a long-term interest in, and involvement with, the Polish avant-garde. David W W Johnstone studied with Leonidas Durdarew-Ossetynski, a close associate to Michael Chekhov, for several years. He toured Poland in the 1980s, giving workshops with Ossetynski to Teatr Gardzenice in Lublin, and Teatr Kto in Warsaw. Other spontaneous workshops took place with Tadeus Huk, and also with members of Kantor's Cricot 2. He played a combined role of Dr Grun/Bidello in Ossetynski's workshop production of The Madman and the Nun in Los Angeles, and played a 'cocaine addict' in the subsequent production of Matka, which starred Polish theatre and film actor Barbara Krafftowna in the central role. Subsequently, he was selected for a special workshop with Ryszard Cieslak of Grotowski's theatre. He has continued to be influenced by the work of Grotowski and Kantor ever since. His most recent visit to Poland was in 2001, when Lazzi took their play Mr Pinocchio to Warsaw. Sandy Grierson has studied with, and been a company member of Zofia Kalinska's Ariel Teatr for two of their productions, the acclaimed A Little Requiem for Kantor, and Dybuk. Zofia Kalinska was a member of Kantor's Cricot 2, and her productions with Kantor included Witkacy's The Water Hen. He has toured extensively with these productions.

Like waking up with your head inside a washing machine and a pair of rainbow socks going round and round, this play shakes you up with its frenzied energy, extraordinary imagination and complete and utter insanity. Taking a look at the life of avant-garde Polish artiste Witkacy, you are projected into a state of surrealism where nothing is clear and everything absurd. Immersed in psychoses, this play moves you away from theatrical realism into one where anything can happen. Superb and mesmerising performances, particularly by the actor playing Witkacy, take this up a notch from complete madness. And at least if you're a little baffled, you've got some fantastic physical theatre to entice you. Intense and abstract, this is certainly unique. Three Weeks


A dada-style event, based on Franz Kafka's short text and using a copy of the Yellow Pages, spontaneously put together for Fringe 2006. Performed by David WW Johnstone and Sandy Grierson at GallerA1, Leith, Edinburgh.


'The performances are flawless, this challenging piece of mime in the style of Polish avant garde theatre is a unique experience. It ... tells its bitter-sweet story in a language of theatre that you may not yet have encountered.'  The Scotsman

'Johnstone... delivers a masterclass in physical comedy...this is a production filled with grand gestures and delicate touches. It’s barking mad, of course, but defies you not to fall in love with it.'' The Stage

'the surprise gem of my visit to Edinburgh, a ‘circus-for-the-mind’...a wonderful and enchanting piece of theatre' Total Theatre Magazine

A duo performance with Sandy Grierson as the young Pinocchio, and David W W Johnstone as Mr Pinocchio.

Edinburgh Fringe, Hill Street Theatre, August 2001
English Theatre of Poland, Warsaw, November 2001


A solo performance by David WW Johnstone.

'crafty performance' The Independent
'splendid performance' The Scotsman
'inspired' The LA Times
'Johnstone careens through various personas with songs, monologues and the simplest props, skilfully transforming motifs as he goes. ...he creates a unified thoughtful piece whose visual and narrative images blend with notable intelligence.' LA Weekly, nominated Best Performance Art, 1990

White Bear Theatre, London 1988
Ossetynski Lab, LA, 1989
Edinburgh Fringe, 1991, 1998