The battle of the Gods - Interview with Zoltán Balázs / 2003

The premiere of Sándor Weöres’s work Theomachia will be on December 12 at the Bárka Theatre. On this occasion, we had a discussion with the director of the not-so-easy-to-play piece, Zoltán Balázs, about the difficulties of directing and about his conceptions.

- Sándor Weöres is not a theatrical author...

- That is true - says Zoltán Balázs - he mostly speaks as a poet or a lyricist in his plays. He does not adapt to the expectations of the theatre, he does not follow the theories, dramatic models, he listens to his inner invention, imagination, vision and for him, and the need for linguistic shaping is much more important than stage impact. In his workshop, the genres – drama and lyric- do not exclude but presuppose each other: his lyric has dramatic features, his dramas have lyrical features. Tragic is the basic feature of his poetry, the constant experience of absence and the stimulus of his plays is the desire for wholeness, the search for happiness.

- Theomachia is not a classic piece. Where could it be classified?

- All the Weöres pieces are different. The Theomachia, the title of which could be translated into Hungarian as “The battle of the Gods”, and which draws its theme from Greek mythology, the author first called it a dramatic poem, later oratorio. Although it has been already put on stage in Szkéné in 1972 by amateur students but–due to the absence of the plot and the voluminous dialogues - it can be rather performed in front of a microphone, as a radio play. So it has all the potential to be classified in the category of “unplayable works”

- But yet you are putting it on stage now...

- As a young director I believe that this play by Sándor Weöres, which, in terms of its theme, style and language is more Greek that the Greek dramas, and more Hungarian than the Hungarian folk-tales, it raises dramaturgical, scenography, visual and acoustic problems, which puts the modern and contemporary thinking to the proof. I would like to stand the proof when I undertake to research the unified, common language of an oratorical ritual play through Weöres’s twelve Hungarian alexandrines - based of the author's infantile childish, almost abstract lyrical - in the fencing hall of the Bárka Theatre, with eleven actors with very different habits and way of thinking. One of my most important partners in this work process is composer Lászlo Sáry, who has already been inspired by the Weöres’s children’s poems; however, Theomachia requires a completely new and bold musical editing, so we intend to create a performance that represents the absolute musicality of the oratorio, the mass and the opera, just like a Palestrina-mass or a Handel-oratorio does. Therefore, Theomachia’s monologues and dialogues function as librettos in a richly textured text-music, just like we envision the performance to be like. Like the mystery plays, the story takes place on three levels in Weöres’s drama: in the inscrutable cosmos of the goddesses of fate, the Moiras, in the motionless universe of incestuous gods and goddesses, and in the world of humans (the curates) ready for change. Parallel, the present-day events are not independent of the burden of the past and the curse of the future: Kronos – the current limited and unlimited lord of the universe - will be defeated by his descendant, the new generation. A new god – a new religion! As in Greek dramas, the denial of fate and the fear of it and the escape from it pushes the protagonist closer and closer to his destiny. In Theomachia, Kronos, “the great raiser, life-planter” just like Oedipus, is driven by an unstoppable desire to prevent the curse, and therefore devours all his children. With the exact term of the Hungarian language: he eats himself.

- Of course, the theory of the great conspiracy of doom would not work without the diligent intrigue of flesh-and-blood artificers and executors...

- Sándor Weöres, who follows exactly the scene-choir – scene-choir setting, also ensures this in the person of Okeanos (wisdom crown), Rhea (Kronos’s wife, goddess of heaven) and Gaia, the Mother Earth. The battle of the gods, more specifically the two gods, Kronos and Zeus - who waited as a savior, and was delivered and raised among people -, is, in fact, the battle of the mother goddess Gaia and the brothers – Okeanos and Rhea - against the dictator and brother, Kronos. It is a modern age situation with relevant personas: Mao, Stalin, Castro, and Hitler... The Kronos cult of Theomachia evokes the dark and limited era of the dreaded dictators, where the sacrifice of man and children is the pledge of momentary reality. The curates, as “stone-rollers”, are destined to fulfill the senseless Sisyphean battle of mankind in a frantic polytheistic cosmos, where the liberation from animal-reptile existence, is “the curse”, the birth of the savior, the acquisition of the intellect... Zeus, Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed... long-awaited prophets, long-awaited religions. PIECES OF GOD. According to the mythology, compared to Chaos’s timeless, anarchic, infinite worldview, “the totality of all movements” is Kronos, the still time, which is made chronometric by Zeus’s “democratic order” by endowing people with the consciousness of mortality. Just as in the Prometheus case with fire, Zeus brings meaning to the finite life of the stone-rolling curates.

- Sándor Weöres, breaking with all sorts of stage conventions (three unities, etc.) is wandering impetuously in the inextricable dimensions of space and time, just like a “bad” little kid, who doesn’t want to play by the rules of the adults...

- A giant spirit in the world of tiny consciousness. It is no coincidence that, in Pécs, even after the third attempt, they still didn’t dare to put on stage one of his most special dramas, The Two Double-Headed Monster, and he expresses his frustration and threatens to silence the Hungarian theatrical life, accustomed to the naturalistic, realistic acting. His dramas, especially Theomachia, go beyond the extensive acting and directing tools of the “immersive” acting we have established. Therefore, the oratorical, seemingly static-themed framework of Theomachia can only be staged with a rich imagination, and with the use of new, bold content and form elements. The Hungarian theatre owes a lot to those poets who made new and real opportunities for the theatre. That’s why I think it's important for the professed theatre to finally undertake and present Weöres’s drama, Theomachia, in an era, when the god(s) is the biggest shortage. With the actors of the Bárka Theatre, we attempt to make Sándor Weöres’s invisible theatre visible.

- Who is playing the main roles in the performance?

- Kronos is Ilona Béres, the Boy is Kristóf Horváth, Okeanos is Rémusz Szikszai, Rhea is Andrea Spolarics, Gaia is Gabriella Varga, Typhon is Erzsébet Soltész, the curates, and Rhea’s servants (choir) are played by Róbert Kardos, Éva Bakos, Attila Egyed, Róbert Lucskay, Erik Ollé and Balázs Dévai. Kornél Mogyoró plays percussion, Zoltán Gávodi will be singing. The set and costume designer is Judit Gombár, the composer is László Sáry, the music assistant is Bánk Sáry, the literary adviser is Judit Góczán, the choreographer is András Szöllősi.

Pégé,, 2003

Translation by Brigitta Erőss