All images by Gáspár Téri
Jurányi Incubator House
Directed and written by Martin Boross
What I Saw
Etiquette is not what you think it is. Or perhaps exactly what you're thinking, depending on your expectations of performances. It is aptly titled, as a comedy of manners – creator Martin Boross pushes into a sensory journey that delights, amuses, and dovetails wildly.
First, there is the dramaturgical setup of the audience itself that confounds etiquette. Upon seating on each side of a runway-like platform, we are asked to wear headphones. Confusing, considering we are normally engaged in a communal sensory experience together. But it doesn’t end there. The narration over the headphones illustrates instructions, and there are different tracks to follow. So we stare at the other side of the stage at fellow audience members, wondering what they are being asked to do that we are not.
Meanwhile, the narrator attempts to explain away the behavior of the actors onstage. It is somewhat psychological, somewhat game theory, and totally engrossing. The running soundtrack between one’s ears is meant to mimic the soundtrack of one’s head, always ticking away and assessing those around them.
Etiquette would work excellently as a touring production, and its cross-cultural appeal is infectious. The cultural barriers around the international audience is swiftly summed up by the actors themselves, both artistic and romantic partners. Boross and Jakubowska explain that when they met, they had to communicate in English – each their second language, as they speak Hungarian and Polish as natives, respectively. Having to constantly over-explain gave them the inspiration for this wordy, delicate piece about behavior and interpretation.
Nuts and Bolts
Company Name: Stereo Akt
Premiere: 13. February, 2016
Running time: 90 minutes
Performed in English
Narrator: Sándor Terhes
Written by: Martin Boross, Gáspár Téri
Music and Sound: Márk Bartha, Szabolcs Tóth
Visual design: Eszter Kálmán
Lights: Gábor Kocsis
Technical assistant: Márk Szapu
Dramaturg, assistant to the director: Gáspár Téri
Production director: Brigitta Varga
Producer: Anikó Rácz
Cast Size: 2
Touring Size: 4 total
Translation options: English script
Touring history: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Representation: Edina Schön - producer
+36 20 9730343
Synopsis: Etiquette by Martin Boross utilizes the genre conventions of nature documentaries and fashion shows. The spectators come to a visit just to find themselves in the middle of an etiquette training celebrated by two absurd figures akin to flight attendants. During the imagined journey they can master the art of fornication, gulping, raging, and, in the form of a duel, one can also learn how to properly by frustrated, or, even to act normally, whatever that means. The behavioural norms required by protocol clash with our visceral reactions. The two main characters, who seem to be existing in a sort of terrarium, are silent, every instruction is broadcast through headphones, using a radio system. The topic of the show is the relationship between the individual and the social expectations. The artists focus on highlighting the problems between social norms and the seriously challenging experience if one tires to comply with them. The performance finds a humorous form to put spectators in awkward situations, yet without making them really uncomfortable.
During the performance ‘we have a chance to confront with gestures that we normally do not allow ourselves even if it would feel nice or we do things despite the fact that it is uncomfortable for us. We would like to be good people. But good is not enough. We must be perfect. And it is not enough to be perfect, you must also show being perfect.’ The plot, the scenes and text of the show ere written by the creative team itself, based on the short feature by Jorgen Leth, The Perfect Human and the book by Miriam Elia titled We Go to the Gallery, as well as their own observations. This is behaviour research on the highest level.
"First, we think everyone is hearing the same thing. Then it turns out that the A sector sometimes knows something other than B. And vice versa. So what is an innocent gesture on one side is the meaningful act of reporting on the other. What we mean, we do not know, but we can infer from the broad smile of those who sit in the opposite room that something funny, maybe ridiculous, is awkward."
STEREO Akt is a contemporary theatre production workshop based on the cooperation of dramaturg Martin Boross and producer Anikó Rácz. Boross has been directing event-based performances since 2011, which experiment with the unusual positioning and participation of the audience. The performances, quite varied in both theme and form, show a similarity in the viewpoint and creative attitude. Their unusual company model was founded in 2012, and since then, they have brought to life a series of socially relevant and community-driven artistic ventures. ‘We believe theatre to be an event, the spectators participants, the point of the event being the meeting of the participant’s reality and the phantasy of the creator.’