A drop in the ocean, pars pro toto, a lot of ordinary people, a clichéd story, reality, Shaw – or what you will, and what you won’t. The theatre of Árpád Schilling is a mirror into which even those who feel to be innocent in creating the world we live in look with a sense of dread. Neither the witness, nor the victim is shown clemency. REVIEW BY JUDIT CSÁKI.
It is clear and transparent like a glass of fresh water. A glass of water is a common thing: cliché, template, the manifestation of run-of-the-mill, consider: to discover hot water. Schilling is adept with these everyday elements. He is able to make theatre from them, because his method is to magically transform everything to individual and unique, so everyone can find something similar to his own fate. Or something that is the direct opposite. Or simply different.
We are not nurses at the Premature Infant Ward, like Erzsi. Who all of a sudden steps away from the incubators, raises her head, and together with her co-workers says what is on her mind: the circumstances in health care are intolerable. And she looks around to realize: she has been abandoned. The minister, of course, supports them, “how right you are”, and “we are one with you”, he lends a hand, he hands out awards, and then closes the maternity ward, where Erzsi works, at the drop of a hat. The early deluge of congratulating text messages, likes and encouragements quickly give way to the drought of silence. In case we teach, we think about the intolerable circumstances in education too. If we work as a doorman in a new stadium, we think about our luck of not being Erzsi. If we are a minister, we think about wanting to be a minister tomorrow as well, and tailor our behaviour accordingly. And under no circumstances do we come to the Trafó, we have nothing to do with it, God forbid someone should see us here.
For typical, commonplace, even overwhelmingly familiar elements to become theatre we need that certain intense gaze that shapes them into the theatrical mix. And a very good actor is also of essence. Erzsi cannot be played by Erzsi.
Like a staircase leading only downwards. The latest performance of Árpád Schilling and the Krétakör, The Day of Fury, uses the brave stance of Mária Sándor, the “nurse in black” merely as a springboard, or a pretext. From this point on the story tells with the aridity and philological precision of a case study how the struggle of the individual is inevitably doomed to fail in a dispirited, listless society that is lazy to protest, to empathize and to call a spade a spade. A struggle that is not even for a comprehensive change, but for the integrity of her microworld, her morals and her mind.
Judit Meszléry, Lilla Sárosdi
So Erzsi loses her job, and no, she does not get another one. She’s off cleaning in a beauty parlour, and at home she can listen to her mother’s rebukes about being inept and “having chased off” her philandering husband, and her daughter’s lamentations about being broke and not being able to afford a class trip to the beach. No more straws left to clutch, as they say. An ex-colleague proudly boasts with her new job: she has become a realtor, having dumped the dirty work at the hospice, and even her “sex life has improved”, not to speak of her financial situation. For Erzsi, there are no opportunities here either – not because she does not want them, she was not born a loser, she is strong and ambitious, but doors are shut in her face, people hang up on her. Nobody wants trouble.
And Erzsi descends the steps: her mother goes blind, the operation is expensive, the flat needs to be sold, her daughter wants to live with her father, who in turn cannot and will not settle the “teen with issues” into his new family, and even the miserable classroom teacher, who “cannot take it anymore” bemoans her helplessness to her, all interspersed with super trendy lingo. The owner of the beauty parlour, who assessed and price-tagged the shortcomings of the looks of the woman in her late thirties when she first applied for the job, hauls himself reluctantly towards a wedding that befits him – Erzsi, the cleaner, helps him dial Ralph on the big white phone and dresses him in his elegant wedding suit after a wild night out. Out of gratitude, or driven by his own emotional misery, he then approaches Erzsi’s bed… And then the price of the flat is gone, and so is everything.
And yet nothing extraordinary has happened, only everyday ordeals, deceptions, betrayals; all in a day’s work, every neighbour goes through one or the other. We haven’t, as luck would have it, or if we have, we have somehow managed to leave the troubles behind. Éva Zabezsinszkij, Árpád Schilling and the actors wrote the story, this delicious little contemporary quintessence of our times, of which, we, the audience are obedient and intelligent viewers. The characters even say to our faces that we would not do for the next victims, as we are here, we are well, we are silent. And we diligently Like the appealing heroic gestures on Facebook, and rebel against the allegedly unbearable social malaise by clicking.
Photos by Stravos Petropoulos
Annamária Láng is also on the stage, and she gives a wonderful performance. She plays a number of characters with ease and depth, conjuring with a single posture or movement the trodden down and vulnerable teacher, the sly nurse, the social climber realtor, and one can but gape when with practically no lines at all she plays the new wife in an Adidas track suit who runs a tight ship. And we have Roland Rába, another actor capable of flexible metamorphosis: the minister masking his aggression with bonhomie becomes a frenzied self-protecting head doctor, only to turn into a go-getter businessman and then a petty conman and a henpecked husband, and in all of these roles he shows not only a fully formed character, but an entire fate.
Erzsi is played by Lilla Sárosdi with her usual boldfaced acting: she offers herself, with an accuracy verging on documentarism. Judit Meszléry in the role of the mother works with the egoism of the elderly, she cures her defencelessness by gloating over her daughter’s misery. The teen daughter is played by Kata Milla Kovács; she presents the great virtues of her generation nicely: putting the desire to get by and get ahead in life before principles.
And Annamária Láng sings Péter Závada’s song set to Krisztián Vranik’s sad music – no consolation, nothing good, and of course it’s all good. We do not shout, we do not try to grab Erzsi’s hand as she reaches for the big knife, maybe we bow our heads, because we know what’s next: blood.