Social commentary or black comedy? The production of “Gypsies”, which will resume at Katona József Színház next month, combines a central theme from two playwrights.
The play fuses the 100-year-old script from Jenő J. Tersánszky with the work of contemporary writer Krisztián Grecsó. “Gypsies” offers an examination of the culture of Hungary’s Roma population, showcasing moments of authentic intensity combined with caricatured depictions, and approaches complex themes that ask to be explored beyond the scope of this black comedy.
The production itself marries into two worlds – one where the Gypsy protagonists are portrayed in brightly coloured traditional costumes, wielding violins and engaging in dynamic melodrama in their home lives, through to the modern and gritty portrayal dressed up in shell suits and poverty. With some brilliant performances by Ági Szirtes (who plays Mrs. Harkocsány) and Tamás Keresztes (Dani), the production is compelling, entertaining and perhaps even thought-provoking.
Even though the themes and issues of the Roma population are only superficially explored, the almost three-hour production is engaging and full of surprises, where moments of chilling realism are juxtaposed against slapstick and comedic acting. Subtitled in English, the play is accessible to expat audiences, and is particularly interesting to those who know little about the dynamic of the Hungarian-Roma issues.
While I feel that “Gypsies” is far from perfect – there are issues of cultural stereotypes that manifest in the Roma characters, even though the Hungarian characters are also portrayed in a negative light, and that the play could have offered an opportunity to further explore and open up a discussion on an issue that is still problematic in today’s society – the production is brilliantly staged and will not fail to hook its audiences.
Gypsies at Katona József Színház
(with English subtitles)
Petőfi Sándor u. 6, District V
Tel.: (+36-1) 266-5200
6 December and 4 January
Prices: HUF 1,500-2,900