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English Newsletter, March 2010

Posted by jt - 2010. április 21.

Hungarian theatre news – March  2010

– 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.

– You can read back issues of our newsletter online:

In this issue:

Festival of theatre academies

Tim Carroll at Barka

Viktor Bodo’s shows in Austria

Budapest Spring Festival

Bela Pinter’s new show

Szin-tar, Festival of Theatre Academies in Kecskemet, 23rd – 28th March 2010

This was the first time that such a festival presenting all Hungarian-speaking theatre academies was organized in Hungary. This, first of all, demonstrates the willingness to cooperate and to share know-how and ideas among theatre academies. Secondly, the festival was designed to deal with problems related to the actor labor market – namely, that nowadays it is extremely difficult for graduate actors to find regular jobs within companies.

During the festival, one could see ten performances from the five theatre academies: those in Budapest and Kaposvar (Hungary), Cluj-Napoca and Tirgu Mures (Romania), and Novi Sad (Serbia). The high quality performances such as Spring by the theatre academy of Novi Sad and Tom Jones by that of Kaposvar would stand tall in non-educational contexts as well. The festival was closed with the conference of rectors, where conclusions were drawn and plans for future festivals considered. One of the most serious problems of the festival is related to its original purpose. Unfortunately, theatre directors did not attend the event. – Andrea Radai

Tim Carroll Directs at Barka Theatre: Victory by Howard Barker

Tim Carroll, the Globe’s former associate director, has worked with the actors of Barka several times. The most memorable of these collaborations was his Hamlet, a performance left up to chance. Roles were drawn, and the actors had to use props offered by the audience. This method put the emphasis on the spontaneous theatricality, the creative energy, and the improvisational skills of the actors. Carroll’s return to Barka, however, does not seem as challenging.

The most striking features of Victory are the bars separating actors and audience and the rough quality and dreadful sincerity of the text. The play follows the story of Lady Bradshaw in the Restoration Era. However, the performance itself does not interpret, but only demonstrates the specific and embarrassing qualities of the play. For example, estrangement effects mix with realistic gestures. The acting, including Andrea Spolarics’ Lady Bradshaw, is one-layered, concentrating only a certain feature of the characters. However, the reception of Victory by critics, controversial as it is, heats up the discussion in the audience, forcing people to create their own opinions about the play and today’s theatre in general.   – Andrea Radai

Viktor Bodo at Schauspielhaus Graz

Viktor Bodo could be the most renowned Hungarian theater director abroad. At the beginning of his career, at a mere 32 years of age, he was a member of the Kretakor Company and Katona Jozsef Theater. In Hungary, he works with his own troupe, the Sputnik Shipping Company. Abroad he directs primarily in German-speaking areas. Hence, with the Schauspielerhaus Graz team, he has been a returning guest since 2007.

Bodó first directed the stage adaptation of Kafka’s The Castle, then the Lewis Carroll-inspired Alice in Graz. For the latter, he received the Nestroy Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the Austrian theatrical profession, for “Best Art Direction” that season. At the Styria Theatre, his last two directions – Peter Handke’s The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other and Ferenc Molnar’s Liliom – are still on the repertoire as well.

Peter Handke’s The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other is written without words and is based on the instructions of the author. It was adapted for the stage in a co-production of the actors from Graz and from the Sputnik. The play shows us a few hours among the residents and tourists of a little town – Graz, of course – with fragmental dramaturgy. The fates of the characters living everyday lives cross at some points; yet, the situations onstage are not dramatic at all, so the performance becomes a kind of anti-theatre. On the other hand, Bodo shows us the action on an onstage screen with the aid of a hand-held camera, building up and destroying the illusion of both theater and film at the same time. About the success of the play, nothing speaks more than the fact that The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other was chosen as a main selection of the Theatertreffen in Berlin.

Ferenc Molnar’s Liliom is a classic work of Hungarian drama literature. In the story, set at the beginning of the 20th century, Liliom, the carousel barker, falls in love with Julie, who works as a maid. After the idyllic beginning, the tale soon takes a surrealist turn. (Fritz Lang directed a movie based on the play, and it often turns up in musical form under the titleCarousel, having premiered on Broadway in the 1940s.) As a production made in Austria, Viktor Bodo’s direction in Graz is not bound by Hungarian traditions, so the performance urges us to rethink the play at several points. Another interesting facet is that Bodo brought a Hungarian actress (Kata Peto) who speaks German with an accent to play the female lead, thus lending the play a thread of alienation. In visual terms, Bodo slides the story from realism into surrealism nicely, while offering the actors plum opportunities for fine performances. It would not surprise us if Viktor Bodo’s newest direction in Graz were received with similar enthusiasm as his last efforts. – Robert Marko

Festival of Extremities – Budapest Spring Festival 2010

The biggest cultural event of the Hungarian capital is the Budapest Spring Festival, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. In the rich program, one can find orchestral concerts, chamber evenings (e.g., Emma Kirkby, Erwin Schrott, etc.), exhibitions, operas and musicals, dance and theater evenings, and so-called ‘special treats’ (e.g., Nigel Kennedy and Paco de Lucía among others). The organizers want to provide and promote culture for two weeks all around Budapest night and day. This year, they even invited contemporary dancers to make short flashmobs on frequented streets of Budapest. Clearly, one can find “big names” in the program, although the festival is not exclusively for “the bold and the beautiful”. On the one hand, there are many free or definitely cheap programs (prices from 3-4 euros) that strike a balance with those that are too expensive for a Hungarian culture lover. On the other hand, the highest prices (50-70 euros) are still low for the foreign tourists visiting Budapest in springtime.

What follows are some impressions of the performing arts’ section of this year festival. In 2010, the festival and the National Theatre organized an International Theatre Festival for the second time. Extremities dominated the program. The performances of Hotel Pro Forma (Operation: Orfeo) and Inbal Pinto (Hydra) divided the public. These shows stay light years away from our terms of theatre. Many Hungarian theatre professionals saw the shows of Johan Simons (Hiob, Münchner Kammespiele) and Luk Perceval (The Truth About the KENNEDYS, Thalia Theater, Hamburg). Unfortunately, many critics missed the point of the latter. They wrote about the lack of historical authenticity and neglected to recognize the virtues of this amazing spectacle.

Lovers of contemporary dance were also somewhat disappointed. The Royal Danish Ballet brought to Budapest their Othello, which is just an empty and boring homage to Shakespeare. The world famous Bill T. Jones showcased a different homage, this time to President Lincoln. By no stretch of the imagination is the Hungarian public the ideal audience for this show. Still, I must mention the flamenco evening of Cristina Hoyos on account of the great dancers, fantastic vitality, and amazing professionalism.

For fans of opera, the festival offered the entire oeuvre of Ferenc Erkel, father of national Romanticism here, but I must also mention the staging of a gifted young Hungarian director, Ferenc Anger, who directed Le Comte Ory by Rossini with witty ideas and clear conception. The Operetta Theatre held the Hungarian premiere of the musical Rebecca. The work by Sylvester Levay and Michael Kunze was staged by Attila Beres. Although there will be some who say that the nonstop use of stage machinery is simply over-the-top, one could be really satisfied with the spectacular and professional show. – Tamas Jaszay

Pinter Bela Renewed

The new Pinter Bela show – Szutyok (possible translation: Scum) – is one of the best shows that this fine independent creator has ever done with his company. After a recent period of crisis, Pinter comes back with this clear and intense show.

The story is set in a village where a couple wants to adopt a child, but naturally “not a Gipsy one”. There are no available new-born babies, so they come back with two teenage girls, and one of them is Roma. The conflict develops after the family has returned to the village. It is a fine dramatic situation which shows the general Hungarian climate in villages, but it explores even more.

The villagers also take part in an amateur theatre show, which allows Bela Pinter to construct some funny “theatre within theatre” scenes, as well as to indulge in some self-directed irony. These scenes are very powerful. A jury will award a prize to the winning play, and seated on the jury is the head of Szkene theatre where Bela Pinter works.

After the funny scene, we come back to the main line. The ethnic conflicts are deepened in the family, and the identities are slowly outlined in different situations – the “Gipsy”, the “Jew”, the extremist nationalist, and the clearly fascist types are assembled onstage, surrounded by the villagers. However, there are the new-born babies coming – the Gipsy-Jewish one being aborted, while the extremist right mother gains a child.

It is an exact picture of contemporary Hungary, which, in April of this year, voted 16% for an extremist right party. With its artistic hyperbole, fine acting, humor, (self-)irony, folk music and dance placed in a contemporary “real” context, the show becomes one of the finest productions Bela Pinter has produced. It is contemporary Hungarian theatre at its best. – Andrea Tompa

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

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