Zsolt Szász talks to Attila Vidnyánszky About the 2023 Theatre Olympics hosted by Hungary.
– Attila Vidnyánszky participated in the third Theatre Olympics in Moscow in 2001 already with his Beregszász (Beregovo) company. How is it possible that almost two decades later, Hungary won the right to host the 2023 Theatre Olympics? Is it by virtue of MITEM, which has integrated the National Theatre, Budapest, into international theater life?
– I met Tadashi Suzuki, a founding member of the Theatre Olympics board, in Moscow back in 2000. One year later, at the third Olympics, organized by Yuri Lyubimov, we appeared with the Beregszász company in the programme series conceived by Anatoly Vasiliev and titled The Eye – Slanted Scythians View. So the fact that we are currently in the international bloodstream was preceded by a rather lengthy process. Valery Fokin was admitted to this body after the death of Lyubimov, and it was due to his nomination that in 2009 I received the award for innovative directors founded by himself at the Moscow Meyerhold Centre. This happened back in the time when I was theatre director in Debrecen. The story is built up bit by bit. Yet it is true that the reputation and acceptance of MITEM helped us most to position ourselves solidly. At the same time, professional relationships like the one we have with Eugenio Barbara for instance, have also contributed to this. Before we signed up to host the Olympics, I consulted with the Ministry, and with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in person. After all, it is such a large-scale enterprise as requires substantial state resources. On receiving positive response from all levels, we wrote an official letter to the present Olympic board asking them to consider our intentions. Poland was the first one from this region to host an Olympics in 2016, in Wrocław, as part of a cultural capital project. Confined to this city alone, it was a modest enterprise in comparison with the previous ones. We are now having a large-scale event in mind.
– After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the last Olympics was also notable for the fact that Fokin apparently did not think in terms of St. Petersburg exclusively. He wanted to have the whole of Russia culturally redefined by this major theatrical event.
– Now Russia is also facing the blatant contrast between great cultural centres and peripheries, with regard to the number of theatres among other things. This has been a focal issue in Russian cultural life for four to five years. It is no coincidence that one day Valery Gergiev, the internationally renowned conductor, artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, collected his ensemble and went on a tour all over Russia. A state which wants to look creditable will try to remedy this inequitable situation. We launched the Déryné programme for the same reason in Hungary. A central element of my vision is to open up the Olympics even wider than the Russians have done, so that this event can embrace and have an impact on the entire country.
– In the middle of the current pandemic, Madách’s mystery drama, The Tragedy of Man, an exploration of the fate and future of the world, with the possibility of destruction also on the horizon, is gaining ever more importance. How could this “world drama” be staged and brought into focus in 2023, the year of Madách’s Bicentenary, so that it becomes a truly memorable world theatrical event?
– This bicentenary is indeed a good opportunity to internationally position Madách’s work. For instance, it would be worth taking stock of the translations of the Tragedy. As far as I know, in Poland, for example, there is only a fairly old translation available, while Russia has an excellent new version, made seven or eight years ago. I know from Miklós Hubay that the French translation is satisfactory, too, and the German is yet to be checked. I am constantly trying to draw attention to this work within my scope, however, contemporary theatre practitioners tend to shy away from such a large-format dramatic proposition. It is no accident that in today’s theatre world there are hardly any directors who have the courage to stage the full Faust, although – thanks to the cultural dominance of the German language – its adaptations appear here and there. Unfortunately, these great topics are not in the spotlight these days. The year 2023 could for instance see a students’ Madách mini-festival come into being. This dramatic piece may need to be approached from the angle of actor and director training, even at an international level.
The interview first appeared in the 2021/09 edition of Szcenárium Magazine.