Kristóf Kelemen szin
Characters: 3 men, 2 women
“Observers... stages the state of perpetual distrust with its documentary-based but fictional, sometimes dreamlike, psycho-thriller crime story. As if David Lynch told the story of Goulash Communism.” Noémi Herczog, Élet és Irodalom [Life and Literature]
The plot is set in Hungary in the 1960s. The secret police has Michael Besenczy under surveillance. Besenczy is Hungarian, but he has lived in England since his childhood. As a young man, he comes back to his home country to study film directing at the University of Theatre and Film Arts. The Hungarian authorities suspect he is working with British intelligence. Informants are placed around him and are commissioned to form intimate friendships or erotic relationships with the subject in order to provide privileged information. Besenczy behaves in a way that neither confirms, nor contradicts the suspicions of the authorities. Is he a puppet master trying to exploit the system, or an artist looking regarding his own situation as an experiment, studying the human psyche?
Everybody has something to hide. Being an informant can easily be the second worst option in a system that keeps tabs on a huge number of people (including the loyal, the remotely suspicious, or insignificant) and knows their secrets and vulnerabilities. Illegal activity – e.g., being an active homosexual or a prostitute, for example – or a family history of opposing the regime makes a person a desirable candidate for the position of informant.
To be successful in operative work, an informant has to ease into and stay credible in different roles. Informants should not raise suspicion in their private life, should gain the trust of the subject, and show absolute loyalty to their handlers. Yet, no matter how skilful and cautious these informants are, they cannot hide from the secret police’s and each other’s observant gaze. In the end, they might find themselves vulnerable, suddenly recognizing their own deepest fears in the eyes of their subject. There are no easy answers in this situation, which takes its toll on everybody involved; and, while trying to navigate this web of truths and lies, the spectators might find themselves wondering who is observing who.
Kristóf Kelemen is a young director and playwright. He graduated as a dramaturge from the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest, where he is currently a PhD student. His mostly documentary-based productions received critical acclaim and were invited to a number of Hungarian and international venues and festivals. Observers is Kelemen’s third production for the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, following While You Are Reading This Title, We Are Talking About You and Hungarian Acacia (co-production with Bence György Pálinkás).
Kelemen was awarded the Hungarian Contemporary Drama Prize for Observers, and the production received the Hungarian Theatre Critics’ Award as best new Hungarian drama and best independent production of 2019.
Observers was selected to be showcased at the Fast Forward Festival (Dresden) that presents the most promising newcomers on the European theatre scene. It was also invited to the Palm Off Fest in Prague.