Three Shades of Death

Original Hungarian language version by Nóra Gerebenics, appeared on CampusOnline on August 7. 2013. Translated by Gábor Kálmánczhelyi.

The performance by the trio of creators Csaba Formanek, Lénárd Ilyés and Ádám Pignitzky, inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead is shown at a new venue, at the Super8 basement in the eighth district. The play, starting out from Malomudvar Színházi Műhely has been to Inárcs, the Thealter Festival in Szeged, and in September, it will return to its adopting place in Kőfaragó utca.

The title of the play (Book of the Dead) obviously implies that it’s not an audience-petting production. It’s important to stress, that the original Book of the Dead simply inspired the performance, which is about so much more than death. It’s   about the circle of human life, the confrontation with passing, and there’s much more to untangle. Because in this case, the creators allow every viewer to see their own reflections into or add their own experiences to it. This also needs the viewer to be willing to work and cooperate.

The long, narrow space of the Super8 basement is an ideal venue for the performance, it allows the big latitudes that physical theatre requires. The impressively arranged, minimalistic scenery, props and lighting effects are also supposed to serve that. The two actors playing the performance took on an inhuman task, since in the course of the play made up from three separate parts, they have to portray antipodal characters, may it be baby, old gentleman, or monk. They held their own, and carried out their task exceedingly – particularly in the first two parts. At first, certain dramaturgic elements of particular scenes don’t always add up logically, but they clear up later.

From about the tenth minute we settle into the meditative state that characterizes the performance, regarding the mood and also the speed. For this reason, the story sometimes advances more slowly, than it would be pleasant for the viewer. This shows especially in the third part, with the monks, and the end of the performance. It may not be the performance we can sit in to for entertainment after a hard day. It may require us too to invest some energy into it. What we saw here may stay in our heads even for days after the viewing. But if someone is up for this, and the Book of the Dead finds them in just the right moment, they can take part in a cathartic experience, springing up with elemental power. And they certainly won’t regret that.

It’s good, that such a performance could get a place in the newly unfolding cultural territory of Super8, which, from fall will officially function as an independent theater workshop.

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