All images by Vera Éder
The Short History of
Trafó House of Contemporary Arts
by Dóra Gimesi
Directed by Károly Hoffer
Performed by: Marcella Andruskó, Mara Pallai, Tibor Szolár, Csaba Teszárek
What I Saw
Set in the basement of Trafo, a theatre hub in the middle of Budapest, one would expect a performance with youth and vigor upon seeing twentysomething faces onstage. Each opened a small box and populated it with miniature props. What followed, however, was a puppet performance that was actually about how the elderly would want to spend their last days. The narrative of older couples and individuals confronting death and reflecting on their lives was in measures sweet, mundane, and affecting.
The group of performers were recent graduates who all built the puppets themselves, each hiding token artifacts on their puppets based on their own grandparents. The show was inspired by the death of a relative of the playwright, with whom she spent the last year of her life. In this, the intergenerational webbing of The Short History of our Time was woven, that younger people tend to ignore the larger context of the older generation.
The show was comedic, attempting to use the puppets’ physical characteristics to deflect from the depressing nature of their circumstances. Their worlds were each contained within the boxes packed by the performers, containing mini-sets that were also storage for the dolls themselves. That makes this an excellent touring production, and these talented young performers have the capacity to reach a wide audience with their all-encompassing subject matter.
Nuts and Bolts
Company Name: Vaskakas Puppet Theater and the ESZME
Premiere: 12. February, 2016.
Running time: 70 minutes without a break
Performed in Hungarian with English surtitles
Music: Csaba Teszárek
Written by: Dóra Gimesi
Assistant to the director: Anna Rigó
Set designer and director: Károly Hoffer
Contribute: Tamás Fodor, Gergő Pethő, Péter Wagner-Puskás
Cast Size: 4
Touring Size: 5 total
Translation options: Subtitles or simultaneous translation
Touring history: None
Representation: ORSOLYA SZITHA-RINYU
Synopsis: Four young actors, four elderly puppets, a dog, a dead man and a mission. There is a long way from Budapest to Venice on the puppet stage, from the future to the past, from the past to the future. The presence of young actors and the narrated story highlight the old-age paradox, which is the main topic of the show: the soul would still fly freely, mind, imagination, spirit work the same way as before, but the aging body constantly reminds one of the brevity of life. The relationship between the old puppets and the young puppeteers brings to life a theatrical form which presents both the pain of passage and the bizarre humour of old-age struggles.
The story starts out from the past, from faith actually, but it is very much played in the present. Four elderly people try to fulfill the last wish of a common friend, a former lover, a husband, to have his ashes scattered into the sea in Venice. But their first task is to get hold of the ashes, while this last demand once again (and maybe for the last time) is able to exalt these people, who at first hustle with each other only to couple up later, and go ahead fulfilling the mission. Well, sort of… The occasionally action movie-like adventures take sharp turns: sometimes because of the ever-present female rivalry, sometimes because of the masculine laziness, the ardent desire, the inspiring ingeniousness drives the characters forward, towards Venice, and, actually, towards the end of their lives. Yet, as a side effect of the common adventures, loneliness subsides, just as the feeling of uselessness, aimlessness, in a nutshell: old age. The performance is a miraculous coexistence and co-play of four young actors and four old puppets. Full of charm, tenderness and love.
The members of the young generation of puppet artists claim that ‘puppetry is not an age but a genre’. Director Károly Hoffer and his actors refute the general belief that puppet theatre equals shows for children.