Nagy Britmania Supernow Festival, Budapest
9 – 16 February 2007
‘Last October,’ said our fixer, Gabor, ‘people were being shot in the face with rubber bullets outside this venue. I hope that doesn’t happen while you’re here.’
‘Yes, we hope that doesn’t happen either,’ we said.
With no real control over how the rice is read, we wondered if perhaps here, in a country with a complex past and equally complex present, we’d understand why the guards on our door were armed. The atmosphere was all the more heightened by people muttering to us at opening night:
‘what you’re doing is wonderful, but expect trouble’; to other times ‘what you’re doing here is an insult, I hope you get trouble’; to ultimately the most measured and representative: ‘what you’re doing is very interesting, and don’t listen to talk of trouble, people say a lot of things.’
And that’s how it went. The imposing Museum of Ethnography lent impressive space to big issues around immigration, diaspora, children’s health, and the 1956 revolution, navigated via culture, transportation, and cheap gags. The cast (Hungary and its neighbours) came in 50kg ‘hernia’ bags, and if some were kicked over the floor, it was for the most part accidental. Besides, there was a kind of Sistine Chapel mural on the roof which drew the eye rather. An impressive array of notable Hungarians kept the narratives refreshed, and its beguiling language made seriously impressive demands on the ‘insert symbol’ function for the labels.
Graeme and Andy, who had been recently released from a Budapest police station when I arrived, drove back to England in The Black Maze sending us messages of support from a series of ‘luxury trucker stops’. Stretched to breaking point, our translator Ildiko decided she wanted to fix toilets for a living; and Jack, Louisa, and Chris did a beautiful job of ensuring the show was the British export to be proud of (and Chris is French so fair play to her there).
Performers: Jack Trow, Louisa Pearson, Graeme Rose, Chris Dugrenier, Nick Walker.
With Ildiko Lacki
Concept: James Yarker
General Manager: Emily Dawkes
Advisory Producer: Nick Sweeting