All images from dunaPart.net
by Kristóf Kelemen
Performed by Dániel BAKI, Péter JANKOVICS, Bettina JÓZSA, Tamás RÉTFALVI, Iringó RÉTI
Dramaturg: Tamás TURAI
Visuals and stage design: Zita SCHNÁBEL
Costmues assistant: Letícia BARTOS
Music: Péter MÁRTON (Prell)
Video: Balázs VIRÁG
Research archive video materials: Orsolya BARNA
Technical manager: Ákos LENGYEL
Assistant to the director: Anita TOTOBÉ, Katinka BORDÁS
Director: Kristóf KELEMEN
Date I saw This Show: 29 November, 2019
What I Saw
Kristof Kelemen’s Observers, a taut, 100-minute look at surveillance and spying during the communist rule of the 1960s, smartly blended a compelling script with fantastic design and production values and an elegant projection design that served the story perfectly without feeling gratuitous. Performed in the Trafó Club, a small, basement black box space in the Trafó arts complex, the play had a fully-realized box set—an interior living room complete with ceiling, carpet, and curtains that walled off the perimeter. Mid-century modern furnishings brought the era to life, juxtaposed with sophisticated audiovisual technology that projected onto three surfaces in the interior of the space, including one made to look like an old-fashioned box television set of the sixties or seventies. The three different screens were used in a variety of ways, sometimes displaying the same images in sync, other times showing three separate images. The lead character used direct address to explain, in chilling tones, why this surveillance was necessary—at one point even turning a camera on us and projecting on one of the screens the image of us observing the performance-in-progress. At other times, he sat in the front row and watched the action unfold on stage. Both of these strong visual choices reinforced the oppressive burden of constant surveillance in a police state.
Based on a true story, Observers was one of the few pieces to feature any LGBTQ characters (a closeted man is blackmailed into spying on his friend), and the five actors who performed in the piece were excellent across the board. It was a gripping story, expertly designed and directed, and one of best offerings of the festival.
About the Artist
Kristóf Kelemen is a young director and playwright based in Budapest. He graduated as a dramaturge in 2015 at the University of Theatre and Film Arts, where he is currently a PhD student. He is considered one of the unique voices of his generation, casting an inquisitive eye on the workings of Hungarian society.
He is a dramaturge at the Radnóti Miklós Theatre whilst also working on his own and collective independent projects.
Kelemen’s documentary theatre production, While You Are Reading This Title, We Are Talking About You, was an immediate success and was presented at Hungarian and international festivals, including Temps D’Image Festival in Cluj and TESZT Festival in Timisoara. The show focused on his university and the life and circumstances of freshly graduated young actors. Hungarian Acacia, a documentary lecture performance, co-directed with Bence György Pálinkás received critical acclaim as well. It was part of dunaPart4, and invitations were made to: Off Europa Festival, Theaterfestival Basel, BOZAR, SPIELART, Mousonturm and Divadelna Nitra, amongst others. Observers, that Kelemen wrote and directed, was awarded the Hungarian Contemporary Drama Prize and was chosen Best New Hungarian Drama and Best Independent Production at the 2019 Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Award.