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English Newsletter, January 2010

Posted by radaiandrea - 2010. február 15.

Hungarian theatre news – January

provided by the Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Association in collaboration with ITI Hungary. In this newsletter, you will find short reviews by theatre critics about current performances, as well as information about festivals and other theatrical events. Any further suggestions are welcome. If you wish to submit a different address or unsubscribe, please refer to the bottom of this newsletter.

In this issue:

Kasimir and Karoline at Orkeny

Life is a Dream  at Katona

Exam performances in Budapest and in Kaposvar

New Viktor Bodo show

Stop the Tempo by Studio Yorick

Kretakor Reloaded

Hitler at the National

INFO: new publication of the  ITI Hungary

Kasimir and Karoline (Odon van Horvath) at Orkeny

This production at the Orkeny Theatre is basically built around one and only one idea. Instead of the traditional stage, a black canvas with a rectangular-shaped hole is on display. Thus, details of the swirling crowd at the onstage Oktoberfest are viewed through this television box-like frame. This is does not mean that director Laszlo Bagossy wanted to get off cheaply. On the contrary, the idea is mined and exploited so richly that its effect and freshness do not wear off prematurely.

The melody of the piano and the narration of the pianist, reminiscent of a silent film, create an atmosphere of the early 20th century. Since the frame is too small for an actual-size human body, the audience can only see body-parts, sometimes without faces: shaking and frightened hands, laughing shoulders, backs feeling ashamed. It is as if the tiny details of the whole were illuminated in grotesque spotlight.  – Andrea Radai

Life is a Dream (Calderon de la Barca) at Katona

A seldom performed play in Hungary, Life is a Dream has recently opened at the Katona Jozsef Theatre’s studio space, the Kamra. It is directed by a young director, Daniel Kovacs, still a student at the Academy. The short, one-and-a-half-hour show is a visual, simple, somewhat cartoon-like performance with good acting. The Spanish baroque play is not taken too seriously, as the “dream” part of the play, which transforms Segismundo into a hero and a king, is just a joke. One can never believe in it. All crowns are made of paper and mantles of simple blankets. “Life” remains a prison where one can only dream about crowns and freedom.

Full of jokes and humour, fresh and easy, Life is Dream comes across as a fashionable student exercise. – Andrea Tompa

Hopes for the future – exam performances in Budapest and in Kaposvar

Today we must admit that Hungarian actor training has two centres. The first, the Budapest Film and Theatre Academy, has long traditions, while the other is based in the South-Transdanubian region, in the home of the once legendary Kaposvar theatre. As an invited lecturer at Kaposvar University, I believe that the main advantage of actor training in the countryside is the same as it was in the golden age of the Kaposvar theatre. As an actor, there is nothing else to do besides practice your craft. Of course, this is only a theory. We will see how it works in practice!

The new premier of the Budapest Academy is quite special for a few reasons. Last year Robert Alfoldi, director of the National Theatre, invited ten playwrights to make new dramas based upon the Ten Commandments from the Bible. In the end, we received eight new Hungarian dramas, but – contrary to earlier plans – there is no talk yet about their being staged at the National. One of the dramas, written about the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” was created by playwright Andras Vinnai (alias Dr. Anna Sivian on the playbill). It is entitled Azaz (perhaps, “Well, well” in English). This play has now been staged by Alfoldi with the young actors studying in Laszlo Galffi’s class.

About the author: Vinnai has been collaborating with Viktor Bodo, so one may have some idea about the funny chaos dreamed up on his page and on the stage. It happens here again in his new play. The quite poor story (mostly about killing, of course) progresses along gags and jokes. The play continuously refers to the (onstage) storytelling and its impossibility as well. We get only fragments of stories and mosaics of characters in a revue-like, spectacular and extremely funny staging. It is an impressive piece of teamwork mostly based on helping and concentrating on one another. The play itself lacks any feature of classical dramaturgy.

The same can be said about the new production by the Kaposvar’s 3rd-year acting students. (The class is led by Janos Mohacsi.) The basis here was a classical oeuvre (the four final plays of Chekhov), but the result (virtually) has nothing to do with the Russian classics. The show, entitled, has two directors, Zsolt Anger and Jozsef Bal. They represent two different approaches to theatre making. Anger takes an easy leap far from the original texts just to find something very up-to-date and very close to the spirits of the young actors, but this can only be accomplished with the help of a very analytic reading, and that is mostly Bal’s method. Many of the scenes from The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters follow each other in quick succession. Everything is related to everything, while the small fragments usually stand alone, too. Bitter humour and (self-)irony, as well as carefree laughter at tragedy and the traditional image of Tschekhov [old spelling], give the show great power. – Tamas Jaszay

New Viktor Bodo show

Based on a novel by Luke Rhinehart about a psychiatrist, Viktor Bodo goes back to his evergreen topic: the world is chaotic and mad and conventional, and the individual has to give up his rational approaches toward it. One must go mad or, viewed from another angle, become free. The major hero this time is a psychiatrist who is imprisoned in his own conventional family and work. He frees himself by giving up rationality. Bodo has created a very funny show with lots of good moments and jokes. However, when it comes to creating fantastic images or depictions of the irrational, the “poor theatre” tools and bare stage are not enough. In the end, it looks like a simple, amateur show, no matter how funny the play is.  – Andrea Tompa

Stop the Tempo by Studio Yorick

In the latest initiative of the Thalia Theatre, performances of Hungarian-speaking companies based outside Hungary are invited to Budapest. On such an occasion, Stop the Tempo by Studio Yorick from Targu Mures, Romania could be seen in the Thalia Theatre. The play was written by the young and celebrated Romanian playwright Gianina Carbunariu.

Stop the Tempo is about two young girls and a boy who revolt against the fake identities created by consumer society and commercialism. The theatrical performance is rather minimalist. The effect is based on the strength of the text and the acting. Only three perspex chairs and the lights supplement the actors’ performances. As a result, the production does not go beyond the gesture of revolt, only depicts a sensation (albeit a strong one) of life. Yorick’s performance is an appealing piece of youth theatre with the message that consumer society is bad. We agree. Period. – Andrea Radai

Kretakor Reloaded (?)

In our November newsletter, you could read about how the renowned Hungarian theatre company “Kretakor” (Chalk Circle) was looking for new paths. After their structural changes in 2008, they did not stop working, so by the end of January 2010, one could hear about them from Paris as well as from Budapest. In the French capital, Arpad Schilling, the head of Kretakor, had a premier with the students of the Centre National des Arts du Cirque. The show Urban Rabbits made a great impression on the French critic Frédérique Roussel (check: In Hungary, cinemas began screening Nibelung Housing Estate in the middle of January. (Now it can be purchased on DVD, too.) Two weeks later, a documentary DVD was also released about last year’s series of public actions and performances, entitled The Apology of the Escapologist.

The DVD-premier of Apology took place in the Kretakor Base, a huge, completely refurbished flat close to downtown Budapest. The evening had three different parts. The first, called “Anyalogia” (Motherology), was a theatrical performance with Zsolt Nagy and Lilla Sarosdi, directed by Schilling. During the one hour show, we caught a look at the everyday life of a couple with sex, brutality, quarrelling and the challenge of how to raise a “child” (played by a saxophonist). The second section – called “Analogy” – came in two parts: a photo exhibition of what happened at the public places used in last year’s performance series and a live concert with contemporary music. The third and most exciting portion of the evening was the DVD premiere of The Apology of the Escapologist. (This part of the evening was called “Apology”.)

The one-hour documentary film entitled Escapologists in Budapest (made by Gabor Peter Nemeth) shows us that Schilling does not believe in traditional theatre anymore. He thinks that the spectator cannot remain outside the happening. Audience members must take an active part. According to him, the audience must become a community of creators who themselves influence the stories made for and made by them. The result shown in the documentary is more than convincing. With the help of professionals (Schilling and his workmates), small, forgotten or marginalised communities (like pensioners or pregnant women, etc.) started to think for the first time in their lives about theatre making, about the meanings of words like ‘theatre’ and ‘community’. The work of Schilling is clearly still in an experimental state, but its potential is easy to grasp. – Tamas Jaszay

This season’s Nazis – Hitler at the National

With elections on the way (in April this year), one can see more and more talk about the extreme right onstage. Thus, Hitler and the emerging young Nazi have become the heroes of the season. I have seen them at least four times onstage in this season’s new performances, not only at the Katona (in Odon von Horvath’s Songs from the Vienna Woods), at the Orkeny (in Brecht) and at the National (Budapest’s most important theatre), but what I consider more important, in a small production called Hey, Nazi aimed for young audience. This was presented in secondary schools by the Kolibri Theatre. The topic of emerging, rising Nazism and its discourse is the theatre’s response to the actual political atmosphere and social fears.

In the studio of the National, George Tabori’s play Mein Kampf is a good performance with youthful energy and unconventional theatre. Very visual with powerful acting (and also very text-based), the show works with fresh images (sometimes cartoon-like), music, and role-playing. Directed by Roland Raba, a former actor in the Kretakor Company, his directial vision is a discovery of the season. – Andrea Tompa


The Hungarian Theatre Bulletin 2009 was published by ITI Hungarian Centre in cooperation with the Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Association and the Hungarian Theatre Museum and Institute in January 2010. The booklet contains studies by lead theatre historians, dramaturgs and critics reflecting upon the most relevant Hungarian theatre trends and events of the last two years.  The publication was realized within the framework of the international roundtable discussion and visitors’ programme for theatre professionals, National Theatres in the 21st Century, held in the National Theatre from 29 to 30 January 2010.

ITI Hungarian Centre

The newsletter does not represent the opinion of the Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Association, but of the individual critics.

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