8 of us (playfulness and personality) – Interview with Zoltán Balázs / 2009

- There was a four-month period when you’ve had the premiere of three performances (Leonce and Lena, Woyzeck, Egg(s)Hell). Compared to previous works, these plays are much more cohesive.

- There were several reasons for this period. On the one hand, there was a practical reason: a new company has been created and we wanted to make a new repertoire. These three pieces were needed for this. On the other hand, these pieces are apropos. They are good for a company to talk about itself; about the community, their power relations within workshops, and about independent personalities. The tension and collision of these give that long-term process, which is the greatest task for a thinking artist in a company. We are not doing opening-nights, we are just playing and inviting everybody to play with us. The performances are constantly evolving, we always draw more and more lessons from them. It is also important that there are always external influences, this is why I invite guest directors regularly. This will prevent the company from becoming domestic and monolingual. We ask a single question through each piece: Who are we? No one can ask themselves a greater question than this. A company exists as long as this remains a real, existing question.

- I often experience with theater performances (especially dance theater, workshop-like performances) that I would rather be in the play than sit in the audience.

- It changes every evening how much the audience can participate in this or what it’s better, to be on stage or in the audience? And this can be felt from where I sit, at the technician’s desk. However, this risk must be taken. At first, no one knew how this has to be done. We still don’t know, but incorporating the experience, the performances are different now. In yesterday’s Leonce performance, for example, a spectator stood up because he felt the need in the Blades of grass scene, to be the grass. Or in Egg(s)Hell they are putting an egg in front of the actor or toss it to them, even though no one asks for it. These three performances are connected by the word “play”; the concentration of the actor’s play and as a result - which is a long-term goal - the resuscitation of the spectator’s playfulness. We need to educate our audience because, without this, the theatrical medium cannot function. This is why we are having open rehearsals, performances at festivals, schools, prisons. It has done well for us the fact that we, as an independent company, have our place. It’s fantastic that we’re starting to have our audience. Anyway, the development of a common language could be one of the tasks of the critics, but very few go beyond the markers of ’62 - that is “great”, “powerful” -, and get to a critically analytical approach.

- Do I feel it right, that your last three performances fit together better than ever before?

- The Egg(s)Hell is a further elaboration of Leonce and Lena, with movement and music instead of text and music. It can also be considered an experiment because there is no recipe for it, nobody has ever done something like this before, but also training, which always becomes a performance depending on how it will turn out that evening. The actor doesn’t know what's going to happen the next moment, but if we are well prepared, he would be able to react with perfect concentration. It seems as if the actors are doing choreography, but there is no such choreography. At first, I didn't even tell the audience, that this is improv, even though the actors asked me to. There are rules and tools, everything else is up to them. One of the main rules is that the same thing cannot be repeated twice. Within the framework, the freedom of the actors and their interdependence is given. Where else could you experience this domino theory in the theater? There is nothing more beautiful than thinking together with people who think independently. It also happened during the Leonce that we had a really good scene, but we didn’t know how to finish it. We showed it to the audience, asked them for their help and they finished it for us. It was perfect.

- What is the characteristic that is novel?

- This kind of game doesn’t cover anything up. The spectator sees exactly if an actor is insecure, weaker, or physically weaker that day. We don’t want to apply makeup, and the way we play doesn't make this possible right now either. Those who can’t be there will fail. And this is not a mistake. I don’t know such a thing as a mistake. There is a personality, that we show during the performance. But if they do not notice it, we will disguise ourselves, saying that this hasn’t turned out well, we will try again. This is true in both, Egg(s)Hell’s and Leonce’s case. We are asking ourselves: there are no roles, there are no actors, there is Kamilla Fátyol and Ákos Orosz. This is what’s interesting. I’m trying to communicate something with you, the spectator while getting involved in real conflicts with those who are next to me on the stage. In what we are doing, and also many other companies, there is no shaping, there are no roles, and critics should keep up with this. And if something is not enough or false, it can be changed on the fly. Yesterday, for example, when the actors were very upset in one scene, one of them said to the other, “Calm down!” The spectator saw this, there was complete silence, and the other actor calmed down. If an actor gets tired, he doesn't have to grind anymore, he has the opportunity to relax. In front of everybody. And what we do doesn’t want to be more than that. If somebody is looking for something more than that, than that is already only about himself. You don’t need anything but playfulness and personality. If you don’t have it, everything remains just a theatrical form, and I can hardly bear this kind of theater. I believe that it’s normal to have companies with different tastes and minds next to each other.

- I once began writing, explaining the connections between the number eight and Maladype, but I eventually gave up this dim numerological reasoning.

- It’s no coincidence that for all of this I was just looking for eight people around. Number eight is a very important thing to me. It means both the completeness of the circle, parity, the never-ending mobility, the completeness, and the relationship of the two fours.

- Also, the main focus of the contemporary movement is physical theater. What do you think about this term?

- Lately, many put on us the “physical theater” label. The term itself it’s not interesting to me at all. On the other hand, I hope that the idiom is clear and unambiguous. There was a conscious shift with Leonce, which was related to the transformation of the company. I am surrounded by young, energetic people, and a “language” had to be found for this. This “language” is the play with the unity of thought, soul and body. It is important to say it clearly, tell it in a structured way, but maybe an interlocking leg, ear or hair could help you with this. And this is also suitable for abstraction and stylization while making fun of it. Call it what you want! As sharp as the change may seem, it has always been in me before, and it’s the root of every Maladype performance. It is starting to come together with the people I’m working with right now and who are my mediums in the creation because they are the ones who bring their bodies and souls on stage. I see and understand in vain if I don’t have an actor who understands me. Now, my situation is perfect: there are people around me with whom I can now ask the same question over and over again.

Ákos Török, Criticai Lapok, 2009

Translation by Brigitta Erőss