‘Kristóf Kelemen, one of the most exciting theatre makers of the young generation, deals, yet again, with systemic phenomena in this, his latest production. Observers is based on a true story. By creating an atmosphere of permanent fear and lies, it paints a picture of the systemic culture of blackmailing, that was prevalent within Hungary’s State Security during the 1960s. It permeated and transcended all levels of civilian and private spheres. The tiny stage of the performance is decorated with a period, retro set design that is free from nostalgia. I would say it is almost like a museum, were it not to lack the calming feeling that all this belongs to the past. There has been no public settlement of the communist informers’ issue in Hungary since the change of regime. Its legacy permeates even the current social functioning. The performance’s dramaturgy embeds the story in this shared knowledge, as well as in the position of theatrical viewing that observes the role-play that a dictatorship forces upon people. From a broader perspective, in a modern social context that is based on observation and control. Information always comes at a price, only the way it is obtained changes. As one of the characters, Lieutenant Horváth, says: “One day, there’ll be a camera on every street corner and citizens will voluntarily pass on all their data to us. Until then, we will take them away by force.’ Anikó Varga, curator
Performers: Dániel BAKI, Péter JANKOVICS, Bettina JÓZSA, Tamás RÉTFALVI, Iringó RÉTI
Dramaturg: Tamás TURAI
Visuals and stage design: Zita SCHNÁBEL, costmues assistant: Letícia BARTOS
Music: Péter MÁRTON (Prell)
Video: Balázs VIRÁG
Research archive video materials: Orsolya BARNA
Technical manager: Ákos LENGYEL
Assistant to the director: Anita TOTOBÉ, Katinka BORDÁS
Actors’ coordination: Réka Judit KISS
English translation: Dávid Cseh
Production manager: Judit BÖRÖCZ
Director, author: Kristóf KELEMEN
‘The performance, written and directed by Kristóf Kelemen, accounted for one of the exceptional moments of this theatre season. Its plot takes place in Hungary in 1965. Its opening monologue relates the role that the state security agency had played in the past. Simultaneously, it draws our attention to the falsity of its own power rhetoric, and through that, to our present.’ Andrea Tompa, Magyar Narancs
‘Observers stages the state of perpetual distrust with its documentary based, but fictional and sometimes dreamlike psycho thriller crime story. It is as if David Lynch told the story of Gulasch Communism … Thanks to the cunning mixture of different theatre forms and genres, Observers is not set in the past. It creates a time loop in which one can get lost quite easily. Thus, what we have heard a thousand times, ‘that we hadn’t left the reflexes of our socialist past behind’, becomes a contemporary experience causing actual physical symptoms. These reflexes are with us today; we are running around in circles, unable to break free.’ Noémi Herczog, Élet és Irodalom
‘We Hungarians are born observers.’, says Sándor at a certain point in the story. This is more or less the last drop in that glistening pellucid glass that reflects our features and offers us an opportunity to study them. Kristóf Kelemen’s Observers is a carefully calculated, succinct yet emotionally involving and unsettling account of what we inherited, what we have been wallowing in for decades and what we will most probably pass down to our progeny. It is high time to say out loud that the new generation is not at the gates but already on stage, and taking this crew as an example, I am happy to report they are more than ready.’ Tamás Jászay, Revizoronline
TOURS & FESTIVALS ABROAD
Palm Off Fest, Prague, 2019.
Fast Forward, Dresden, 2019.
...is a young director and playwright based in Budapest. He graduated as a dramaturge in 2015 at the University of Theatre and Film Arts, where he is currently a PhD student. He is considered one of the unique voices of his generation, casting an inquisitive eye on the workings of Hungarian society.
He is a dramaturge at the Radnóti Miklós Theatre whilst also working on his own and collective independent projects.
Kelemen’s documentary theatre production, While You Are Reading This Title, We Are Talking About You, was an immediate success and was presented at Hungarian and international festivals, including Temps D'Image Festival in Cluj and TESZT Festival in Timisoara. The show focused on his university and the life and circumstances of freshly graduated young actors.
Hungarian Acacia, a documentary lecture performance, co-directed with Bence György Pálinkás received critical acclaim as well. It was part of dunaPart4, and invitations were made to: Off Europa Festival, Theaterfestival Basel, BOZAR, SPIELART, Mousonturm and Divadelna Nitra, amongst others.
Observers, that Kelemen wrote and directed, was awarded the Hungarian Contemporary Drama Prize and was chosen Best New Hungarian Drama and Best Independent Production at the 2019 Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Award. The production will be part of the Palm Off Fest in Prague and Fast Forward European Festival for Young Directors in Dresden this autumn.
Observers was published in Hungarian as the annex of the theatre magazine Színház (Theatre).
Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, Orlai Productions, FÜGE Productions
National Cultural Fund, Ministry of Human Capacities, Jurányi Art Incubator House, the Municipality of Budapest, Budapest City Branding Nonprofit Ltd., Staféta
The production was realized in the framework of the Staféta Program of the Municipality of Budapest.
Kristóf Kelemen is supported through the Esztrád Theatre Grant Program.