Hard To Be A God opened 21 May 2010 at KunstenFestivalDesArts is Brussels, since then the company have toured in Lisbon (Alkantara Festival), Essen (Theater der Welt), Rotterdamse Schouwburg (De Internationale Keuze), and Bordeaux (Novart Festival). The Hungarian premiere took place at Trafó on 21 January as one of the highlights of dunaPart, a platform/showcase of Hungarian contemporary performing arts.
The basic premise of the performance is human defenselessness. We see two trucks on their way in which five men are keeping prostitutes against their will. We don't know where they are coming from, nor what direction they are going to go in, but they have all given up on their freedom in the hope of some better future. The constrained confinement creates a separate world for them. The travelling box is the scene for their lives.
In this transitory life men make the rules and the four walls of the truck enclose the empire in which they reign. Their methods are also imperial and don't lack the means of totalitarianism. They know their business, they know the rules of being on the road as well as the girls know the scope for action provided to them, including all the lanes and potholes of being at someone else's mercy.
This is the premise in which the scenes from the novel Hard to be a God by the Brothers Strugatsky come to life. The novel is the inspiration of the plotline for the production. We do not examine the novel in all its aspects, only from the aspect of Divine distance and responsibility, as the central topic of the production is exactly that.
Among the 10 people travelling in the truck there is an infiltrated man as well. He sees what is happening around him but according to his mission he cannot intervene in the events. His position is strictly that of the observer, limited to see his own human existence but not able to do anything else than watch this trip towards hell. He is present like God, far from the joy of creation, as a dolorous observer. It is in this state of inaction he observes the truck crammed with a heavy melodramatic load. For a while. Until the human prevails in him, the human that is unable to keep inactive, whose living element is becoming part of the life surrounding him and cannot withdraw himself any longer. Because he has a heart. So he has to act. Understanding the dark laws of the truck, the only possible solution seems to be fighting them with their own methods. Violence. Destruction.
In the East European region this transitory situation is very familiar: being at someone's mercy while being on the road illegally, fleeing from somewhere. It is now a universal phenomenon. We hear and read about it all the time. But we can only know it as inactively and from such a distance as the Gods do. The aim of the production is to show the dilemma posed by the juxtaposition of inactive presence and active life in a constrained pace, in the struggle between God and Man.
The performance creates a situation, an atmosphere, in which the audience's position of the observer in also questioned. The actuality of the events makes the audience present within it, thus allowing them to pose the questions of observing themselves. The un-stylized truck scenes present the stage on the one hand, on the other they give the basis for a reality show in which we are anxious to get out of the "peeping" situation. Real objects, real people, two real trucks. These are the indispensable elements of a play without playing in which we can choose between human and divine roles and responsibilities, in which the question arises: will we stay observers or become human?
The show also touches the actual issue of radical ideologies in Europe. We see that especially in Eastern Europe radical politics are getting stronger, more and more radical groups are born. In the show the group of men belong to a radical group with rather frightening ideas about life and politics. The ideology is as radical as questionable, but still has the fragments of truth and these men would even sacrifice their life for this little spark of truth. The son of the president belongs to the group as well and this fact has a great impact on the story.
During developing the show we made a research about human trafficking and prostitution to be able to implicate more fragments from life. We collected several stories and we tried to see behind the scenes. Who tortures who? Who looks for shelter? Who is looking for love? Who is surviving and who is the king of this huge empire of violence.
The approach is not documentarist though, but we might have an idea of people living on the edge of something. We would like to show a small world where even God can hardly see as the darkness of unhappiness is everywhere.
Among the actors there are professionals and amateurs too; people, who inspire the director and become creative partners of him by building up a team during the working process. Some of the same actors he used to work with, partly from the formal Krétakör Theater and actors playing in the Frankenstein-project, his most popular theater performance, which was presented at KunstenFestivalDesArts 2009. and is touring on theatre festivals worldwide.
Hard To Be A God
25 May - 2 June Trafó (District 9, Liliom utca 41.)
Written by Kornél Mundruczó and Yvette Bíró
Váradi Annamária: Annamária Láng
Andrea: Kata Wéber
Zita: Diána Magdolna Kiss
Emőke: Orsi Tóth
dr. Varjassy Károly: Roland Rába
Attila: Gergely Bánki
Omar: László Katona
János: János Derzsi
Varjassy Rudolf: János Szemenyei
Doctor: Zsolt Nagy
Set and costume design: Márton Ágh
Dramaturg: Éva Zabezsinszkij
Music: János Szemenyei
Assistant director: Balázs Lengyel
Producer: Viktória Petrányi
Director: Kornél Mundruczó