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NOBODY'S DAUGHTER

by dollardaddy

Performed by Maté Dezső GEORGITA, János KULKA, Emina MESSAOUDI, Tamás ÖRDÖG, Katalin SIMKÓ, Natasa STORK, Sándor TERHES,  Orsolya TÖRÖK-ILLYÉS, Lana VARGA and Virág JEGESI/Luca VARGA, Emil ENGÁRD/Rafael Flórián LÉVAI-RÁZSÓ
Written by Bence BÍRÓ and the company.
Costume: Je Suis Belle – Dalma DÉVÉNYI and Tibor KISS
Dramaturg: Bence BÍRÓ
Assistant to the director: Rita HERPAI
Special thanks to Marcell DARGAY
Directed by Tamás ÖRDÖG

Premiere: 2019

Date I saw This Show: 28 November, 2019

 

What I Saw

 

When you enter the theatre, a mostly-naked woman is lying face down on the floor, centerstage. The space is otherwise very bare. The play begins with a blackout, then a dim, shallow spotlight on the woman. Soft white petals of confetti begin to fall from a machine attached to the grid directly above her. It’s a stunning image—the woman is left alone, outside, in the cold. Nobody cares for her. Nobody is coming for her. An older man (played by renowned Hungarian actor János Kulka in his first role since suffering aphasia from a 2016 stroke) crosses to the woman and, pulling her by the arm, drags her upstage. He will serve as the silent witness as she recounts her story. Bright lights flood the stage and she starts to speak. The play begins.

 

Nobody’s Daughter, adapted from one of the most famous Hungarian novels of the twentieth century (Zsigmond Móricz’s Árvácska), is the story of Csöre, a young, orphaned ward of the state, who is repeatedly physically and sexually abused by different families who happily cash the government subsidy checks while providing her ‘care.’ Several people I spoke with said that every Hungarian reads this novel in middle school, despite its traumatic subject matter.

 

The play is an interval-less 100 minutes spent under a harsh stage wash bright enough to light a television studio. There are no breaks in the action and no reprieve from the lighting—you are not permitted to look away. We watch Csöre (played briefly by a child actress, but mostly played by an adult woman who toggles back and forth between recounting her story to the listener and reliving it) as she is sexually and physically assaulted. Although the initial rape of the young Csöre (she is five or six at this point) by her foster father is mercifully kept offstage, some of the later violence, including the repeated sexual assault by a foster brother and several beatings, are simulated on stage. The actor playing Csöre spends most of the play entirely naked, a nod both to the novel (where it is said the child refused clothing) and the vulnerability of the central performer. Director Ördög allows the debris on the stage to accumulate over the course of the performance so that by the play’s end it is littered with blood, water, scraps of food, dirt, and the snow from the opening tableau.

 

It was a powerful piece, masterfully directed. I had questions about how some of the violence was handled, as there were some inconsistencies between what was shown and what was offstage, but on the whole I found the piece compelling and harrowing.

About the Artist

Emőke Kiss-Végh and Tamás Ördög are young Hungarian actors and theatre-makers. They are known for their unorthodox shows and projects staged in flats and unusual venues. dollardaddy’s (Dollár Papa Gyermekei) is one of the youngest Hungarian ensembles; true risk-takers in every sense. They experiment on the boundaries of real life and theatre in a minimalistic style, with very little set or costume. They re-narrate Ibsen and other classic playwrights, while keeping the characters, the situations and the conflicts, but speaking the lines in their own words. Their original acting style, inspired by the Dogma films, invites the audience to be part of a uniquely intimate relationship with the performers. They are seated inside the “living-room”, everything is happening just within their grasp. Tamás Ördög regularly holds workshops for art students and professionals. He focuses on helping to find one’s personality and natural voice. Participants interpret their own personalities through theatrical characters, and they create scenes on stage based on improvisation primarily, but also using classical dramatic literature. Family and relationships are at the centre of interest. This summer he was invited to Dartmouth to participate in the artist-in-residency programme by the New York Theatre Workshop. He will teach at the University of Theatre and Film Arts from September.

 

dollardaddy’s participated in the programme of dunaPart3 (2015) with Home and dunaPart4 (2017) with Chekhov