László Garaczi: Lockdown szin

László Garaczi: Lockdown (Veszteg)

2001, 21 soundscapes

1 woman, 1 man with chorus

László Garaczi’s play has two main characters and a chorus. The text takes the form of free verse, in which the two characters relate the story of their marriage, their feelings for one another, and their longing for a life that once could be called normal, but now it is all too remote. The story takes place in present-day Budapest, during the Corona-virus pandemic, in two different flats, where Perdo and Hajni live separately. They are far away from each other, but still close in a way.

During the first period of lockdown, these two people, who were once husband and wife, are now separated. Pedro and Hajni divorced a few years ago and left their home in Sopron, later moving to Budapest. They still keep in contact on Messenger and on the phone. Some rules were made after the divorce, such as not asking about Zita, Pedro’s new girlfriend, and not seeing each other in person. Ironically, the distance made their relationship closer and more intimate.

On the street, there is silence, dust, debris and fear. A world built by people, but uninhabited by people. That is how Pedro sees the outside from his window. He is alone, alienated, but not afraid of the virus. Hajni doesn’t know that Zita is out of Pedro life. She left him and fell in love with a painter. Pedro walks every day. He starts his daily routine at the Lotts Town Plaza, a regular shopping centre, which is now empty like a ghost town. That is why he nicknames it Lockdown Plaza. Afterwards, he takes a trolleybus and goes to the City Park, where he walks a lot. He finds joy in observing little things that no one sees, strange details that he likes to think about. He does not wear a mask on his face; he does not sterilize his hands. Every day the same routine. He knows from a distance those few people who need to work on the streets, such as the worker who collects garbage in the City Park. 

Among the monologues by the two main characters, the chorus provides a vivid picture of the city, the virus and the anxiety-ridden people.

After the divorce, Hajni also left Sopron. She has come after Pedro. Hajni is a teacher, and she is also alone. She is practical, clever and a little bit cynical with a lot of pain, frustration, anxiety and loneliness. She is much more careful than Pedro. Her emotions do not let her stay in her apartment. She goes back to the flat in Sopron that was once theirs, but now it belongs just to her. Hajni talks a lot to Pedro. On the train, she thinks back on their life together. She is afraid of the quarantine, but wants to go back because of the plants, and maybe because of the memories. Back to Budapest on the train, she admits to herself that she still loves Pedro. She calls Pedro to tell him that everything was okay in Sopron, but he does not respond.

Meanwhile, Pedro takes his usual walk in the City Park. He is deep in his thoughts, walking in silence, when the garbage collector suddenly approaches him to ask for some money. He feels in danger, so he gives him some money and starts to walk away when the worker hits him on his head. He falls on the ground and tries to hit back. Finally, in the fight, Pedro murders the other man. Hajni gets off the train and still wants to call Pedro. She feels lost, desperate. She breaks the rules and heads for Pedro’s apartment. She feels sick and falls to ground. At this point, her role in the play ends.

Pedro goes home. He tries to reach Hajni on the phone, but she does not respond. He stands at his window, watches the empty streets and listens to the ambulance cars heading to the City Park.

The mood of the text is dark and gloomy, but it has a great sense of humour. The text makes the absurdity of the lockdown apparent. This story is full of love, eroticism, dark thoughts and humour.

László Garaczi wrote this play for a competition called Quarantine Theatre in the spring of 2020.

László Garaczi was born in Budapest on 17 July 1956. He has an MA in Philosophy from ELTE University, and has been working as a freelance writer since 1982. He is known and recognized as a writer of short prose, poetry and plays. His plays are frequently staged and he has won several prizes: the József Attila Prize in 2001 and the Márai Sándor Prize in 2002. His play Veszteg won the prize for Best New Play for the 2019/2020 theatre season. His plays are characteristically postmodern in attitude and structure, which usually requires new forms in the staging, which makes these plays to be rewarding opportunities for theatre experimentation. The language of his characters give a compelling insight into a world ruled by signs and conventions, which diverts use of the dramatic language from being a traditional character-defining tool or the shape-giver of a given subjective state of mind.