On. Ona. Onko.

  • Marszałkowska 8


dir.Weronika Szczawińska
22.03 19:00

Induction loop, Polish Sign Language

23.03 19:00

Induction loop

24.03 16:00

Induction loop

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  • Directed by 

    Weronika Szczawińska

  • Dramaturgy

    Piotr Wawer jr

  • Premiere

    TR Online: March 21, 2021
    TR Warszawa/Marszałkowska 8: June 19, 2021

  • Ticket

    Normal ticket: 70 PLN
    Concessionary ticket: 50 PLN


The performance is recommended for audiences aged 14 and over.


One man. One woman. ONCO.

One man. Sebastian Pawlak, an actor. He studies the reality, body, social relations and language from the perspective of a person who heard that he is the worst artist in the world and who has experienced an invasive direction.

One woman. Weronika Szczawińska, a director. She studies the reality, body, social relations and language from the perspective of a person who heard the “breast cancer” diagnosis and who has experienced an invasive treatment.

ONCO. A performance set in the personal experiences of the director – Weronika Szczawińska and the actor – Sebastian Pawlak, who share the belief that even the most difficult scenario written by life can be changed and a new role can be played in it. Or not.

Project developed as a part of a Sopot Non Fiction 2020 artistic residence program.

Weronika Szczawińska (b. 1981) – director, dramaturge, culture theorist and performer. Graduate of the College of Inter-Area Individual Studies In the Humanities and Social Sciences (MISH) at Warsaw University, PhD from the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). Studied directing at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw. Has worked with a number of important theatres around Poland (including Narodowy Stary Teatr in Cracow, Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw, Komuna Warszawa, Wrocławski Teatr Współczesny) and Slovensko mladinsko gledališče in Ljubljana. Assistant professor at the Theatre Studies Department of the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw. Laureate of the prestigious Passport of the “Polityka” magazine award 2019, for „the intimate and tender performances that combine the private themes with important social issues. For the commitment, transgressing one’s own career path”. Her latest works include: Klub (The Club, Akademia Teatralna and TR Warszawa 2021), Onko (TR Warszawa 2021), Miejski Ptasiarz (The Urban Birder, Wrocławski Teatr Współczesny 2020), Po prostu(Simply Said, Performing Arts Institute 2019), Rozmowa o drzewach (A Talk about Trees, Komuna Warszawa 2019), Nigdy więcej wojny (No More War, Komuna Warszawa 2018), Genialna przyjaciółka based on Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend,Wrocławski Teatr Współczesny 2018), Lawrence z Arabii (Lawrence of Arabia, Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw 2018). Member of the Performing Arts Institute (InSzPer) collective.

Piotr Wawer, jr (b. 1983) is an actor and dramaturge, creator of independent art projects. He is a regular collaborator of Weronika Szczawińska. He graduated from Acting Studio at Stefan Jaracz’s Theatre in Olsztyn. He was working in Dramatyczny Theatre in Wałbrzych, Studio Theatre in Warsaw, Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw National Stary Theatre in Krakow, Slovensko Mladinsko Gledališče in Ljubljana, TR Warszawa, Komuna//Warszawa and other theaters and art institutions in Poland. He was a member of an artistic ansamble of Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz from January 2015 to August 2017. He is a member of Performing Arts Institute (InSzPer) collective. He used to be a competitive sailor and freediver, at present mainly an amateur hiker.

From the director

“I am very interested in the reality altered by cancer but I am not looking for a confessional, therapeutic or pedagogical project. I am wondering how one may make use of an oncological disease. Instead of creating a performance about cancer, I want to investigate what we can learn about the modern world thanks to cancer. What does a person with breast cancer learn about our and society? What can the audience find out?”

Weronika Szczawińska


direction, text: Weronika Szczawińska

dramaturgy, text, musical arrangement: Piotr Wawer jr

text: Sebastian Pawlak

set and costume design: Karol Radziszewski

choreography, conceptual cooperation: Agata Maszkiewicz

piano: Aleksandra Gryka

  • In the performance fragments (translated by Weronika Szczawińska) of the following books are used:

    Jenny Diski, In Gratitude, Bloomsbury Publishing 2016
    Anne Boyer, The undying: a meditation on modern illness, Allen Lane 2019


director’s assistant: Malwina Szumacher (till Decemeber 31st, 2020), Katarzyna Gawryś-Rodriguez (from January 1st, 2021)

production manager: Karolina Pająk-Sieczkowska


photos by Monika Stolarska

Interviews, discussions

Katarzyna Lemańska’s Interview with Weronika Szczawińska, “(Team)work hygiene”, “Performer”

(…) Weronika Szczawińska: (…) It’s about recognizing the areas, spheres where we, as people, enter into a social performance that humiliates us on an institutional basis. For me, it was important to find a way to accept that I was a patient, without feeling this degradation. And it’s not only the healthcare system that creates the problem – I have mostly very positive experiences with it – it’s the cancer clichés that we have in our heads, that are the worst. Sebastian translated them into art and his extensive experience. And so, we have our double moment of brazen independence in this performance.

Witold Mrozek’s interview with Weronika Szczawińska, “A well-known director stages a comedy about cancer. “A calculator said that I have a high survival rate” “Gazeta Wyborcza”

Weronika Szczawińska: (…) There’s a lot of talk about everything being boxed by identity politics and that everyone will forever sit in theirs: feminists in feminism, non-heteronormative persons, ethnic groups, and so on.  

It seemed interesting to me – let’s talk about a female experience, a “gendered” disease by inviting men to this discussion. Sebastian Pawlak is an actor who utilizes very modern acting skills – both theatrical and performative, heavily set in the body. Only later an idea was born, that I might also be present on stage – it was a result of my discussions with TR Warszawa. During my illness I was the person who was taken care of, now I’m taking care of someone who’s on stage.”

Mike Urbaniak’s interview with Weronika Szczawińska, “Weronika Szczawińska: We can’t talk about cancer, which often has nearly comedic consequences” “Wysokie Obcasy”

Mike Urbaniak: How can an oncological disease be useful?

Weronika Szczawińska: It can help a person reevaluate certain things, look at them from a new perspective. I realize that it sounds trite, that the same can be said about any experience but in this case I really see this as a serious identity issue, which has to be faced head-on because one way or another you’re neck-deep in it. I used my oncological disease to reflect on such fundamental issues as illness and health. Earlier I thought that they are very clearly demarcated. Today, I know that’s not true. As a matter of fact, most of us are not entirely healthy, health is rather our fantasy about being healthy.

Jacek Wakar, Nowy TYgodnik Kulturalny, Podcast #07

“(…) Weronika Szczawińska tells her story: about cancer, about the trauma of diagnosis, about coping with what fate had in store for her – living with and overcoming it, about the fact that there are no right answers or ready solutions. You just have to face it. (…) The director wanted to narrate this unbearable pain and fear without any pump or pathos. (…) I really appreciate a very fine  (…) performance by Sebastian Pawlak, this sort of “camp” acting, turning what is difficult into laughter.  The show is particularly moving when it drifts away from the laughter and turns into an account of a disease, of a fight with a system, that at the same time accompanies the disease. (…) For everyone who wants to face all of this and deal with it differently – through laughter, through poking at the problem from various sides by a recoveree, “ONCO” is a must-see and may change their perspective.”

Magda Sendecka, Nowy TYgodnik Kulturalny, Podcast #07

“(…) This is a performance, that on the one hand opens up a discussion on a very important topic, (…) and on the other hand – plays with the form and is a kind of a treat.”

Adam Suprynowicz, Nowy TYgodnik Kulturalny, Podcast #07

“I wanted to stay in that world a little longer.”


  • This performance is a manifestation of a love for life and for being face to face, in
    contact with a real, live audience sitting in front of the actors. That’s quite a daunting
    task. In his stand-up routine Sebastian Pawlak recounts the story of Weronika
    Szczawińska’s struggle with an oncological disease (she’s sitting next to him and joins
    the action from time to time) which he interrupts every few moments to discuss his own
    difficult experiences with theatre. Both parts (dramaturgy by Piotr Wawer jr) are linked
    by the issue of objectification – both the patient and the actor are feeling deprived of
    having power over their bodies – and the place: TR Warszawa, where they’ve managed
    to end up in – “crawl into” after a long journey. In both cases the circumstances are
    quite ambivalent: for Szczwińska – a breast cancer, in remission; for Pawlak – a
    cancelled premiere of “Hamlet” and the fight (so far successful) for a spot in the theatre’s
    ensamble. One could also add here the repeatedly rescheduled (due to pandemic
    restrictions) premiere of “Onco”, finally produced online, in a way by two directors – the
    streaming was orchestrated by Jagoda Szelc.

    Aneta Kyzioł, Polityka
  • She – a young woman, director, hears the diagnosis: breast cancer. And she has to deal
    not only with the disease but also with the cultural conventions and stereotypes. He – an
    actor from a small town, whose path to a Warsaw theatre was not an easy one, attempts
    to avoid being pigeonholed – a disastrous fate for an actor. In fact, both of these
    characters are portrayed by Sebastian Pawlak. Szczawińska accompanies him on stage,
    from time to time she comments on the action, in short – she plays the director. From
    this subversive correspondence between the state of a patient and the state of an actor
    comes an unobvious strength. The modest, unpretentious performance about a disease
    and art morphs into a story about an attempt to save one’s subjectivity.

    (…) “Onco” is not a sad, maudlin or solemn story about a disease. The play is neither a
    confession nor a therapy session on a stage. The suffering depicted in the performance
    does not have an ennobling quality and the pain is not a mean to sainthood. “Onco” is a
    black comedy with cancer and theatre as a backdrop.

    (…) The comedic aspect of “Onco” is not about backslapping and repeating over and
    over again that we are all only humans after all, so we can laugh, relax and go on. It’s a
    physical, corporeal experience, almost meaty and sometimes disturbing.

    Michał Centkowski, Newsweek
  • “(…) ONCO may be interpreted as a soft – since it does not employ radical forms of expression but rather is based on perspective and humor – manifest against two dichotomies with a very solid presence both in cultural imagining and language: against the dichotomy of (i) success and failure and (ii) good health and sickness.”

    Marcelina Obarska, culture. pl

In partnership with Alivia Oncology Foundation.

Support from the COVID-19 Counteract Fund.