Dirt by Béla Pintér
Pintér Béla and Company’s performance
Venue: Szkéné Theatre
Date: 30 November 2010. 10 pm.
110 minutes without break
in Hungarian with English subtitles
Szamosi Zsófia, Szalontay Tünde, Enyedi Éva, Friedenthal Zoltán, Thuróczy Szabolcs, Quitt László, Szakonyi Györk, Roszik Hella, Pintér Béla
Music: Kerényi Róbert
Costumes: Benedek Mari
Assistant to the Costume designer: Kiss Júlia
Puppets, masks: Juristovszky Sosa
Lightning: Vida Zoltán
Assistant to the Director: Hajdú Rozália
Director: Pintér Béla
Created within the framework of the International Theatre Institute’s Theater der Welt 2010 Mülheim an der Ruhr und Essen festival, in organisation of the Theater an der Ruhr und Schauspiel Essen and with cooperation of RUHR 2010 European Capital of Culture.
“Pintér’s Csővár (Pipe Castle, location of Dirt) is the condensed Hungary. Half succeeded ones live their unsatisfied lives. They fill themselves with substitutes. They drug themselves with less alcohol, literary stage and playwriting. They cover their pain caused by unlovingness or incapability to love with goodwill, but soon they will not be able to hide their eagerness and determination to any dishonesty. Clumsy realism shows the complexity of the sociologically true, dramatically authentic clown acts, drowning in everyday melodrama.” (Péter Molnár Gál, Népszabadság)
In the first works Béla Pintér created as an independent artist what was surprising was the amazing energy of a company of amateur actors (more typical of independent theater than en ensemble like Schilling’s). But equally stunning was the feat of collective creation behind whole productions visibly based on improvisation (at that time an exclusive characteristic of the independents), the razor-sharp humor, and the provocative issues and themes raised, from the shameful Hungarian health care system to new sects, which are fast gaining ground after the social changes. In these productions Hungarians witnessed the birth of a new theater language, a new style, which would later come to be called “Pintér Béla style.”
Formed in 1998, the official name of his current group is Béla Pintér and Company; it consists primarily of amateur actors and is presently housed in the small Szkéne Stage at the Technical University of Budapest. Pintér was always looking at Hungarian folk tradition (dance, music) as expressive devices of contemporary theater. The emphasis always falls on contemporaneity; Pintér’s productions disarm and debunk all forms of phony nationalism, false nostalgia and traditions- Very few artists are interested in investigating what is authentically and uniquely “Hungarian” today, in any branch of culture.
With so many “national” implications, subtexts, and references one might wonder how Pintér’s productions could attract international attention. They have been well-received in Eastern Europe, perhaps because in this region the general understanding of “official,” authoritative culture versus “popular” culture is historically so evident. The West might look at such a piece and see a distorted image: the funny, Balcanic, barbaric, poor and self-ironizing Hungarians. Because Pintér uses folklore as a device and form of expression, and does not aim to deconstruct or parody it in any strict sense. A true Renaissance theater maker, Béla Pintér is not only a director and playwright, but also one of the best actors in his own company.
The new Pinter Bela show – Dirt (Szutyok) – is one of the best shows that this fine independent creator has ever done with his company. After a recent period of crisis, Pinter comes back with this clear and intense show.
The story is set in a village where a couple wants to adopt a child, but naturally “not a Gipsy one”. There are no available new-born babies, so they come back with two teenage girls, and one of them is Roma. The conflict develops after the family has returned to the village. It is a fine dramatic situation which shows the general Hungarian climate in villages, but it explores even more.
The villagers also take part in an amateur theatre show, which allows Bela Pinter to construct some funny “theatre within theatre” scenes, as well as to indulge in some self-directed irony. These scenes are very powerful. A jury will award a prize to the winning play, and seated on the jury is the head of Szkene theatre where Bela Pinter works.
After the funny scene, we come back to the main line. The ethnic conflicts are deepened in the family, and the identities are slowly outlined in different situations – the “Gipsy”, the “Jew”, the extremist nationalist, and the clearly fascist types are assembled onstage, surrounded by the villagers. However, there are the new-born babies coming – the Gipsy-Jewish one being aborted, while the extremist right mother gains a child.
It is an exact picture of contemporary Hungary, which, in April of this year, voted 16% for an extremist right party. With its artistic hyperbole, fine acting, humor, (self-)irony, folk music and dance placed in a contemporary “real” context, the show becomes one of the finest productions Bela Pinter has produced. It is contemporary Hungarian theatre at its best.