Authentic folk drama
Béla Pintér and Company's 'Peasant Opera'
reviewed by REX HARLEY
Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff is probably best known first for its bar, second its two cinemas. Yet over the years, in its small theatre, there have been regular productions by European companies which hardly anyone has been able to see outside their native countries. In the days before surtitles were possible this meant a great deal of guesswork. I remember particularly a virtually static performance, in the original Greek, of Aeschylus' Persae, with three figures strapped to concrete blocks and leaning at the most bizarre angles. It was undeniably powerful but necessarily obscure!
Earlier this year, post surtitles, we were treated to a stunning evening by The St Petersburg Puppet Theatre: their inspired adaptation of Gogol's story, The Nose. And most recently, for three nights, the company in residence was that of Béla Pintér, performing their Peasant Opera.
The Bridegroom (Béla Pintér) with his stepsister (Éva Enedi), in 'Peasant Opera'
Béla Pintér is a fairly remarkable character: trained as an actor, in Budapest, but virtually an autodidact when it comes to direction. His company has produced several shows over the last few years but it is Peasant Opera which has drawn particular critical acclaim. The piece is an artful reworking both of Hungarian folk music and Baroque recitative. Almost every word is sung. The closest parallel, if not the model, is surely Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Speech is reserved for certain key moments and is all the more dramatically effective for that. Pintér is both director and writer, in this case working closely from the outset with composer Benedek Darvas. He also plays one of the main characters: the bridegroom.
Copyright © 30 September 2004
Rex Harley, Cardiff UK