All images from dunaPart.net
by Veronika Szabó/SÍN
Performed by Luca BORSOS, Julia JAKUBOWSKA, Rozália KEMÉNY, Fanni LAKOS, Lori BALDWIN, Viktória MAKRA, Sarah GÜNTHER, Veronika SZABÓ
Consultants: Márta LADJÁNSZKI, Tamara Zsófia VADAS
Sound editor: Dávid SOMLÓ
DJ: Veronika VIDA
Costumes: Anna ÁDÁM
Lights: Máté BREDÁN
Special thanks to: Klára CSERNE, Máté CZAKÓ, Zsuzsa RÓZSAVÖLGYI, Júlia VAVRA
Production management: SIN Production
Concept & directed by Veronika SZABÓ
Date I saw This Show: 30 November, 2019
What I Saw
When the audience enters the large theatre at Jurányi, the eight-woman ensemble of Queendom is onstage, pumping themselves up to prepare for the performance. Loud, girl-power pop music blares over the speakers. The piece begins with the women seated in a circle facing one another, a visual motif they repeatedly return to. One woman places an empty plastic bottle center stage, gives it a spin, and waits to see who it will point to when it stops spinning.
Queendom is comprised of a series of vignettes and I am told that the order varies depending on where the bottle stops during the performance. However, the piece always begins and ends the same way. At the top of the show, underscored by a haunting aria sung by a female soloist, each woman undresses completely and assumes a formal pose centerstage. When the eighth woman is in place, together they create a gorgeous tableau of bodies, reminiscent of a Renaissance painting. The disrobing and positioning is handled so precisely, the music so evocative, and the final image so stunning, it feels like you are privy to a sacred ritual. At the end of the piece, the women (who have briefly left the stage) return, one by one, in various types of male drag. Each woman gets her own musical solo to strut around the stage and audience—an exaggerated performance satirizing the construction of gender. At the end of Queendom, the women remove some of their drag items and return to the same opening tableau. This time, posed together, these half-in-drag, half-naked bodies convey a richer, more nuanced and layered commentary on gender roles and expectations.
What happens in between these two moments was far less successful. Each vignette was a portal into some aspect of the ways women are forced to perform their gender in a patriarchal world.
The thematic point of how women suffer under the male gaze felt laborious—something that would have been cutting edge at the WOW café in 1985, but today seems essentialist and cliché. Even more disappointing was the realization that Queendom was one of only two theatre pieces shown at dunaPart created by women. Nonetheless, the strength of the show’s beginning and end were enough to make this a partial success in my mind.
About the Artist
Veronika Szabó is a freelance actor, director and community theatre facilitator. She has graduated in the MA Advanced Theatre Practice at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London, studying physical theatre and contemporary theatre practices. Before that she studied Applied Theatre at Goldsmiths University. She was a member of the London Clown School and from 2019 she is a member of the Red Nose International Clown Network. In her theatre performances (Warpaint (2015), The baby (2016), The Timestealers (2016), Queendom (2017), Animal City (2018), Dino Coming Out (2018) she usually breaks the 4th wall, creating playful, comic and visceral shows. She often invites the audience to join in as well. She works around topics of identity, female body, the grotesque and humanimal behaviours. She has created site specific theatre and headphone theatre performances too. Her show, Queendom has won the Award from the Audience at Thealter Festival. Her works have been presented at theatres and festivals in the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania, Kosovo. She has also directed several community theatre shows and regularly runs drama and theatre workshops for communities and young people as well as for professionals. In 2016 she worked as a presenter in the comedy-documentary TV programme ‘Immigrant’s Guide to Britain’ on Channel 4. She is a member of the international post-species poppunk band, Maria Inkoo and a Hungarian band, Neonnutria.