It is good to see that a poem holds up also as a dramatic text, even though it had not been initially created for that purpose - so that transformed, it could continue within a theatrical medium, completed under the weight of transformations carried out by the theatre. For this is precisely what happened to the long poem of Domokos Szilágyi entitled The Book of the Elderly, which appeared in a separate volume, thus already sentenced to have an independent life of its own. However, theatre is not the first art form associated with Domokos Szilágyi’s poem, for Sándor Plugor’s drawings also belong to the work, lending it a deeper, more complete interpretation. Hence, Domokos Szilágyi’s text was placed from the very beginning in a medium which encompassed distinctly different possibilities for interpretation, which, as once again has been proven, offered an exciting, lofty challenge for theatre as well.
A great deal of the text is present within the theatrical play, and even though certain segments had not been included, this does not influence the relationship the performance has with the mood of the text - for that which is formulated in the poem appears here with sufficient strength, as evidenced by the set, the costumes, the movement, the dialogues. In the dialogues, because this time we are witnessing a two-actor play. By way of Áron Dimény and Ferenc Sinkós’ interaction dialogue is created, a type of dialogue which continuously interprets the text, placing it under a new light. It draws the viewer’s attention to the fact that in the text of The Book of the Elderly at least two distinct voices can be identified. One that is gloomy, resigned, a mournfully rebellious voice played by Áron Dimény, and another, a more ironic one, who is playful and likes to heckle death, portrayed by Ferenc Sinkó.
When life acts with death at the Hungarian Theater of Cluj, a special play is born! “The Book of the Elderly” is inspired by a poem by Domokos Szilágyi, who himself was inspired by the drawings of Sándor Plugor. Director Mihaela Panainte has continued this mixture of art forms, introducing pantomime onto the stage, but also the poetry of the dramatized text and of that which sets the mood, the poetry of masks and costumes and the musical aspect of non-melodic sounds, of noises, a macabre, terrifying musicality. (...) The performance, inspired by a poem, stays a poem, a symbolist poem, full of spleen, of agony, of a synesthesia that makes one hear in color, and see in sounds, to enter fully into the atmosphere of the stage where moods and feelings engulfed within the ugliness of life before death are artistically painted. Moments of dark humor break at times the intense rhythm of the play, making the viewers - most of whom are very young - smile, but not for long, for the rhythm goes back to a still and profound, monotonous calm, on which the elements of the irretrievably flowing life are contoured (beginning at birth and lasting until one is born again in the after-life).
The poetic theatre evoked by the young director is born through the movement of the body and the expressivity of the actors. Its meaning concerns not merely the word itself, but rather the manner in which it is spoken, the way in which the tone of voice accompanies it, or the manner in which the body forms it. What makes it unique, though, is the way in which words are transposed into images and the way in which poetic states are transformed into corporeal sensitivity. This production restores the mask within the Romanian theatrical medium, the mask used as an instrument which emphasizes the body and forces it to tell the story which is frozen on its grimace.
Áron Dimény and Ferenc Sinkó (...) can be seen on stage, with their faces painted white. Beyond the make-up, this condition between existence and non-existence mirrors the production in multiple ways. The stage is almost empty, only colored sheets are hanging from above. The only other elements present are the actors themselves - who are lonely here, just as evidenced in the text, they are alone with their own thoughts, fears and body aches, which connect them to life itself. In some scenes certain objects appear that can be linked either to old age - which means life - or to death, such as old pillows, a basin, a cane, a coffin.
The actors have found their places marvelously within this immense vision; their acting is angular, burlesque-like, which - alongside the make-up - appropriately suggests this half-human existence, emphasized also by the choreography of Yves Marc and Enikő Györgyjakab.
Carmencita Brojboiu’s scenography places the threshold between worlds in an oneiric setting, in which light plays a crucial role. Intensifying the artistic message of director Mihaela Panainte, the soundtrack of the piece, composed by Șerban Ursachi, can be easily appreciated by those viewers who are familiar with contemporary music. The composer had adequately interpreted from the standpoint of sound the polyphonic semantic messages of the play.
The two actors, Áron Dimény and Ferenc Sinkó, have suggestively and convincingly converted a play that is „much too Hungarian” through its pessimism, into a play that is „much too human” through its universal dimmension.
Award for the best set design for Carmencita Brojboiu, Short Theatre Festival, Oradea.
Date of the opening: May 07, 2016
As he advances towards death, the old man seems to encounter things which played a role in his life. An epitaph is constructed out of the elements of life, which could be a parable about the difficulties of passing away. Besides the lines concerning death, among cherished objects, there are faces. The image, true to its real nature, represents everything he wants to leave behind with his words. Domokos Szilágyi
The poem The Book of the Elderly was written by Domokos Szilágyi and inspired by Sándor Plugor’s drawings. The poem consists of 699 numbered lines that might be regarded as 699 steps towards the great crossing, perhaps the inner walk of the individual who, reaching the end of his life, prepares to go further.
The atmosphere of the poem is amazingly dream-like, and we tried to create this precisely in the performance. The dream-like spaces, the stages before falling asleep, the randomness, madness are those components of the poem that most moved our imagination. Mihaela Panainte