Stories of the Dead

Original Hungarian language version by Zoltán Boldog, appeared on on July 23, 2013, as part of an exposé on THEALTER Festival. English language translation by Gábor Kálmánczhelyi.

By definition, physical theatre builds upon the actor’s body and motions instead of words. When we watch the performance made from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which counts itself in the former category, we can be witnesses to the translation between writing and motion. But that’s just raising a hypotethical question, since the production of Csaba Formanek, Lénárd Ilyés and Ádám Pignitzky throws in our faces the issues of dying, with the help of three stories.

’The futile inscience, the unconscious stumbles about such as a sightless grandame, not knowing where she is going, what she is doing.’ – we can read in the foreword of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the introduction of the performance. And on stage is a grandame stumbling about, who, with a disturbing, almost comic babbling, tends to one of her people. The stories of dying eventually connect in the closing scene, when two monks are preparing for an interim existence, for the state after death, but before the next life, and in their form, we can glimpse now and again some decisive features from human fates we’ve seen earlier.

Apart from the constant visualization of the transsubtantiation waiting for everyone, the performance suggests, that we have to fight similar demons. The grandame sedulously accounting for the pebbles are us, who, while collecting material goods, become comic, squawking figures at the end of our lives. But we can also see our own fears in the old man, lying at the center of the stage in a diaper, who, kicking on the wet floor, is unable to stand up – and there is no help.   

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