VOLKSBÜHNE
Berlin
Sarah M. Harrison, Wojciech Kosma
Charisma

Online, Drama

Charisma is a surrealist situation comedy set in an uncanny house that hosts four residents—Howy, Echo, Fin and Asher—alongside a plethora of mysterious guests, psychic entities and endearing idiosyncrasies. Everyone-anyone-no-one housemates enact a range of everyday domestic scenarios, with varying degrees of aptitude and ineptitude. The nowhere-everywhere-anywhere house, the common template of the classic sitcom set, turns into a cage-like labyrinth: every door, each potential escape route draws the characters—and the viewers—deeper into the psychological entanglements of this strange experiment.

Shot with a Betacam in the style and aesthetic reminiscent of 1990s daytime sitcoms, Charisma takes the form of a deconstructed television show, a series of filmed intimate plays. The interface allows users to create individualized viewing experiences: each episode consists of several diverse vignettes, that float inside a three dimensional grid. There is no linear way to watch Charisma. The series is constantly in motion, an intuitive experience that rewards imagination and engagement. We are invited to create our own narrative with scripted scenarios, streams of text, personality profiles and outtakes. With their peculiarities, their funny logic and offbeat humour, the characters gently, gradually grow on us. Like the hand-painted plates that are constantly broken and re-glued beginning in the second episode, this universe of mini-stories, a microverse, is continuously becoming and redefining our roles as the viewers.

Episode 1 Miscommunication

“Imagine a world in which haptic communication is the most common mode of conversation a world in which everything you touch feels perfect and blissful in your hand.”

Miscommunication is about crossed-wires and adjacent interpretations. Questions are asked but the answers go unheard, drowned out by the buzz of inattention. Stories about imagined worlds of sensual indulgence pass around the house like a game of broken telephone, beginning as sweet, fantastical indulgences they are twisted and turned until they plant bizarre seeds of suspicions, conspiracy and spark a streak of hilarious interactions in episodes to come.

Episode 2 Psychologistical

"Exactly. Nothing. What we are doing is exactly nothing."

In "Psychologistical" new threads are woven into the fabric of the house's strangeness. Echo, in an opaque attempt at understanding himself, choreographs a dance with his past, present and future selves skilfully represented by Asher, Fin and Howy. Fin is an unwitting witness to Asher's (material) and Howy's (political) poking around who both seem more preoccupied with the act of searching itself than any tangible outcomes.

Breakfast continues and whoever fell into the abyss of the trash can get a helping hand in returning to the very tenuous calmness of the house.


Episode 3 Understandings

“This is the vacuum we use, and then it gets translated”

Understandings hover on the glassy edges of comprehension as explanations, obscured by crossed intensions or interpersonal incompatibility, illuminate certain meaning while simultaneously casting others into shadow. An epic monologue sends one housemate scurrying up a staircase that leads nowhere in particular. A processing session leaves another's garbled feelings hovering over an intolerable abyss as a never-ending interruption suspends explanation and satisfaction. A crossed line sends melodrama from the telephone exchange directly into the house.


Episode 4 Seek

“I definitely need you in… in my... in my… in this… this nice apartment.”

Seek is a continuous search. It is compulsive. A never-ending quest. A pursuit with no end. A hunt with no prey. Desire absentia. The bittersweet satisfaction of a perpetually postponed pleasure. It is the regrettable inevitability of a hideous conclusion. Like hair caught in a drain hole. It is Echo being backed into a corner and Fin taking it out on a wall. It is a telling television news transmission from the outside world.


Episode 5 Emotions

“Simple, serious and a little bit punk.”

Emotions is a little bit punk. It is universal, like love and lovely like the universe. It is finding yourself on the other side of the mirror, like boom. It is the sound of breakable kitchenware. Smashed glass. It is Asher shouting numbers in the kitchen or calmly talking to nobody. It is long awkward pauses, even as the hair is shortened.


Episode 6 Haptic

“It’s the most intimate thing we’ve ever done without touching.”

Haptic is a room full of people private dancing with their eyes closed. It is the tin sound of voices echoing through the pipes in the walls. An opera sung into a trash can. It is the intimacy of anonymity behind the camera and the vulnerability of Howy through its lens. A ritual purge. A shell, a happy vessel. A buzzword. It is a houseful of chorus singing everything into being alright.

Created by
Sarah M. Harrison and Wojciech Kosma

Starring
Melissa Holley as Fin
Bhalo Najmah as Asher
Antoni Matteo Garcia as Howy
Ricky Watson as Echo

Also Featuring
Lithalsa
Amelia Bande
Hamishi Farah
Birgit Stauber
Aciel Martinez Pol

Produced by
Sarah M. Harrison and Wojciech Kosma

Associate Producer
Maru Mustrieva

Camera
Rindon Johnson

Additional Camera
Jaakko Pallasvuo
Michele Majidi
and the cast

Art Direction & Set Design
Ebba Fransén Waldhör

Narrated by
Rindon Johnson

Costume
Bianca Heuser

Music by
Lithalsa
Aciel Martinez Pol
Joey Hansom

Plate Artwork
Sirdi Travalle

Set Assistant
Michele Majidi

Dramaturgy
Jaakko Pallasvuo

Written & directed by
Sarah M. Harrison and Wojciech Kosma


The production of Charisma was made possible by a grant from Koneen Säätiö Foundation. Charisma was filmed at and supported by District Berlin.


Volksbühne Fullscreen Charisma Expanded commissioned by Volksbühne Berlin

Created by
Sarah M. Harrison and Wojciech Kosma

Concept & Design
Ebba Fransén Waldhör

Programmed by
Isaac Bigsby Trogdon

Translation by
Maru Mustrieva and Elodie Evers

Artistic Production
John McKiernan

Curated by
Elodie Evers and John McKiernan

Episodes

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