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THE ISSUE

by Soharóza

Performed by Petra AL-FARMAN, Szaffi ASBÓTH, Dániel BARTOS Judit BIKSZ, Ilona Liliána BIRTALAN, Tamás BOGDÁN, Dóra BOTKA, Fanni ECKHARDT, Judit Sára ELEK, Sarolta EÖRSI, Magda GÖTTINGER, Dániel JANKÓ, Laura JUSTIN, Roland KAROSI, Lóránt KÉGL, Ákos LOKODY, Ákos LOVÁSZ, Sarolta MAJKUT, Kata NAGY, Lilla NAGY, Zsófia NAGY, Dóra RÁCZ, Zsófia REMES, Anna SEBŐK, Júlia SIMON, András SIPOS, László SOMOGYI, Bálint SZALONTAI, Máté SZILVAY, Borbála TAMÁSI, Tamás TÁRNOKI

Musical director, composer: Dóra HALAS

Costume designer: Fruzsina NAGY

Music, sound design: Márk BARTHA

Dramaturgy, texts: Ádám FEKETE 

Choreography: Emese CUHORKA 

Set: Juli BALÁZS

Lights: Áron KOVÁCS 

Headdresses: 3rd year BA scenography students of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts

Folk singing tutor: Réka ANNUS

Sound: Viktor M. SZABÓ

Technical director: András ÉLTETŐ 

Assistants to the directors: Jutka SZOKOL

Project assistants: Petra Al-FARMAN, Tamás BOGDÁN 

Directed by Dóra HALAS, Fruzsina NAGY

Premiere: 2018

Date I saw This Show: 30 November, 2019

 

What I Saw

 

The biggest surprise of the festival, and the one that left the most lasting impression, was from newcomer Catwalk Concert Productions. On paper, The Issue (co-created by music director Dóra Halas and costume designer Fruzsina Nagy) does not sound like it should work. A high-concept fashion runway is the setting for this piece about workaday bureaucracy told through choral renditions of traditional folk songs and stunning, conceptual costumes that rival some of the world’s best visual thinkers in their sheer brilliance and inventiveness. Sounds insane, right? Yet what Halas and Nagy created together is one of the most remarkable performances I have ever seen.

 

Performed in the large theatre at Trafó on the closing night of the festival, this piece was massive in both size and scale, with more than thirty performers, all of whom are members of Halas’s Soharóza chorus. As a musical group, they employ the methods of choral improvisation and collective composing (yet another thing that sounds impossible) and rely on Hungarian folk songs, rearranged with modern lyrics and instrumentation.

 

The theme of the piece is a meditation on bureaucracy. When you enter the theatre, you are confronted by the massive, white, elevated catwalk that serves as the show’s set. Four large, white piles of paper (rolls and rolls of paper, artfully arranged) are scattered along the catwalk’s perimeter. As the performance begins, the rolls spring to life revealing four performers underneath—they had literally been drowning in bureaucracy.

 

The issues tackled in the piece ranged from the frustrations of getting through to a call center, real estate agents selling apartments, neighborhood noise ordinances, and the quest for handicapped parking permits in the city. Each number was performed by a handful of singers in increasingly elaborate costumes that stood, on their own, as miniature art installations in a Kafka-esque fever dream. Nagy’s costume design reminds me of Julie Taymor’s early-career design and puppetry work—and is every bit as brilliant and compelling. It is my fervent hope that her work will soon be internationally known and recognized.

About the Artist

Soharóza is a Budapest-based experimental choral ensemble, founded in 2008 by Dóra Halas at the suggestion of renowned theatre director Viktor Bodó. The group produces multidisciplinary performances through a completely new approach to choral music and collective singing, utilising special creative techniques. They experiment and improvise with the human voice, language, movement, rhythm and folk music as well as composed pieces. They continually search for new forms and sounds and use collective choral composition methods developed by themselves.

 

Dóra Halas, leader of the Soharóza choral ensemble, received her doctorate (DLA) at the Liszt Academy of Budapest in 2013. The theme of her DLA dissertation was choral improvisation, from which her current research topic arose. She experiments with collective choral composition and as such expands the limits of traditional choir music. Her main artistic interest lies in multidisciplinary performances. As conductor, singer and composer she has worked in numerous theatre and dance productions.

 

Fruzsina Nagy started her career in alternative theatre productions and over the past decade she has directed several individual performances using costumes as the ’main characters’ on stage. She has worked with directors Árpád Schillig, Róbert Alföldi, Tamás Ascher, Gábor Máté, Viktor Bodó and many others, and has contributed to international productions. She is highly interested in the relationship between the human body and its surrounding world, working with costumes, masks, make-up, fashion and visuals. She received the ’Best Costume and Mask Award’ at the Hungarian Theatre Festival in 2009 and 2013, and was chosen as ’Costume Designer of the Year’ in 2016 for her Taboo Collection costumes. At the 2019 Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Award Nagy was awarded ‘Best Costume Designer’ for The Issue.

 

In 2019 she was part of the Hungarian designer team at the Prague Quadriennale, where they received the ’Award for Best Exhibition of Countries and Regions’ for their work entitled Intinite Dune.

© 2020 by CITD.