All images from dunaPart.net
by Studio K
Performed by Katalin HOMONNAI, Dániel LOVAS, Gábor NAGYPÁL, Júlia NYAKÓ, Melitta PALLAGI, György SIPOS, Lajos SPILÁK
Dramaturg: Kata GYARMATI
Music: Attila ANTAL
Assistants: Katinka RÉMI, Veronika VAJDAI
Directed by András URBÁN
Date I saw This Show: 30 November, 2019
What I Saw
Performed in a small black box at Studio K Theatre, Sacra Hungarica contains seven performers who spend the majority of the piece sitting in a row of chairs facing the audience and hurling a barrage of insults and stereotypes toward them. Meant as a dark satire, we hear the language of the oppressor vitriolically parroted by the actors over and over again. No one is safe from their withering scorn, which is meted out against the Roma, foreigners of any sort, migrants, socialists, Muslims, Jews, gay people, and so on. Their rage festers, stews, and eventually boils over. The actors explode from their chairs and cover themselves in food (possibly tinned goulash?), streaking it across their partially-undressed bodies like war paint. The piece ends with the mob singing popular Austro-Hungarian operettas performed as fascist, nationalistic chants.
This was one piece where my American upbringing really impeded my ability to engage with the material. I have an intellectual appreciation for the fact that this kind of shocking content would have been censored under communism (and may soon be again under Orbán), and thus the spirit of anarchy that runs as an undercurrent of the piece is a celebration of what the actors can get away with. But the ‘in-yer-face’ shock-and-awe agitprop style was not something I could aesthetically or emotionally connect with, and the device of using the language of the oppressor to dismantle the oppression itself strikes me as problematic at best.
About the Artist
Studio K Theater is the only independent theatre in Hungary that manages a permanent venue and troupe and operates in a repertory system. Its shows are aimed at audiences of all ages, including children, youths and adults. It also receives other independent companies and productions and supports young theatre creators. In addition to performing arts, Studio K Theater has focused from the outset on equal opportunities, supporting the disadvantaged, providing quality theater education, and expanding access to culture. Within the frame of its Lifelong Learning Program, the theatre’s team uses fine art tools to help elderly people keep their minds fresh and remain active members of society.
András Urbán, the manager-director of the Kosztolányi Dezső Theatre in Subotica (SRB), is a theatre maker who establishes a live connection between stage and auditorium, and who opens up the issues raised in his performances with the precision of a surgeon. His oeuvre is only familiar to those who have had the chance to travel the Balkans together with him, since, over the past few years, he has worked in all the states of the former Yugoslavia. Urbán is usually invited by theatre companies with whom he then either reworks major national classics, or creates original performances. In case of the latter he builds upon the personal stories of the participants, and uses a documentarist style to deal with public affairs that preoccupy a wide range of social circles. Sacra Hungarica is the first show Urbán has directed in Budapest.