Book of the Dead – Seance at Super8

Original Hungarian language version appeared on the Facebook-page of Kilátó ( on July 3, 2013. English language translation by Gábor Kálmánczhelyi.

Summer evening. We arrive. Funny place. A semi-open tent, made of yellowish white plastic on the court. Tables, rejected airplane seats and benches beneath that. The audience is greeted by a band composed of young people. Two chellos, a guitar, drums and songs – in english. We are in Budapest, but we could be anywhere, in any big city of the world. We are struck by the smell of boundless youth and liberty.

On the court of Super8 lives the Supergiraffe. It begrudgingly got its clothing from Superman. We gather and look around here, and noone feels bad about the performance starting late. We gladly listen to the music. Meanwhile our sights roam around the place. They take a rest at the bar, then slips onto the upper story, where the walls, doors and windows shine in vivid colours. A surreal world, perhaps that’s why you feel at home here.

We march down to the basement. It’s chilly. Black background, black carpet, dark stage. The cashier, the usher and the stage manager is only one person. The actors instruct the lighting technician from behind the curtains. Even so, everything works, the adventure begins.

What we see is physical theatre in 90 minutes, inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. On the stage, arranged in minimal-design, all the roles are played by two actors altogether. They don’t even speak. Altough we don’t get bored, not even for a minute.

The base of the plot are three deaths. The creators do not follow the source material. Nevertheless, the most important motifs, symbols are recognizable of course. The free flowing of intuitions, an exciting riddle, waiting to be solved, with just a few fixed guidelines. Parts of the performance are concsious, parts of it are born right there, with the active cooperation of the audience. The actor is a medium, the viewer receives the broadcast.

Masterfully set up stage, well-functioning lights. The décor are passageways between dimensions. Important, precise symbols. Pebbles – fates, actions, carmic impressions, seeds of rebirth. Water –thrashing in emotions, but stimulating, vitalizing energy at the same time. Rice – the rolling of time, the presence of an elevated spirit, blessing and sustenance.

We do not see the bardo of life and death, rather their flowing into each other, the circle of existence. Destinies, characters beside one another, after one another. Patient, nurse, mother, child, soldier, monk. The stories are flowing into each other, they are changing. Life, death, cross-roads. Greed, anger, competing, angst, fear. Demons. Humour, playfulness dissolves all this. It’s a good base for that, that men play the women’s parts as well, just like in Shakespeare’s time.

We can see a fine acting from both actors. Moving precisely, professionalism, flawless control over the body.
Every motion and gesture is calculated, accurate. The teapot hanging down never misses when flung.

The language is gibberish somewhere, while Russian elsewhere. Why Russian? Perhaps because for us, Hungarians, the world of the Russians is the nearest ’East’...

The Book of the Dead is written with water. The verdict goes here, the destinies, actions are measured. Invisible writing.
The temporal human life does not leave a trace. Doesn’t leave a trace?
They put ink-drawings on the same pages later. Service for God.

Born again, again and again. The same circle. Apparently, there’s no escape, there’s no hope, the monk is no exception either. In the last scene, in the motions of the two actors, gestures of the Indian statues are mixed with the pathos of the orthodox icons. Eventually, the two monks discover the opening, glowing over their heads, the exit, the chance to escape the circle.

It’s the end of the rite. On the way home, we are still dwelling on what’s missing from the puzzle, in any case, we feel like buying more rice for the household, and look after our own, shiny overhead escape...

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