Red Roses and Millstones


Physical theatre… Most people are first overcome by skepticism when hearing this expression. As for me, when I went to see the performance, it was primarily out of curiosity. What can 50 minutes of physical theatre on a studio stage offer me? Will I be able to understand its message, will the magic happen?

It is a two-player performance. One of them is played by the director-choreographer himself, Gábor Katona, while the other is Klári Varga, who is actually an actress and dancer. They move to music dominated by the dulcimer (played by Péter Zombola), however prosaic lines are also recited — quoted from the gypsy folk-poetry volume entitled “Csikóink kényesek” (“Our Foals are Fancy”), which has been adopted as the title of the play, too.


At first we can only see the Man lying on floor with a wheat-ear in his mouth. Sweet idleness, simplicity, ease, even some nihilism surrounds his presence. This serves as a kind of visual frame, since the play begins here and returns to an almost identical state. On the stage, once can also see two big plastic foils tied up like curtains, onto which pictures of nature are projected, furthermore, a bucket which collects water dripping to a certain rhythm. The beginning is a bit sluggish with the representation of natural phenomena (drought, rain), but then we quickly accommodate to Gábor Katona’s acting.

Then, as the drought gives way to the refreshing, but stormy rain, the Woman emerges from behind the veils and the atmosphere changes on stage. By this time, it has become obvious that their motion is based on recurring motives. Both of them bring patterns stemming from their being and situation, which reoccur from time to time, or become modified.

Horváth Árpád; Katona Gábor

It is easy to recognize that what we see is a typical love-hate relationship between a man and a woman. In the beginning, the Woman as a siren is trying to attract and seduce the Man with her singing and dance from behind the foil, in a conscious, consequent and very persistent manner. The Man is dancing in and out of the stage trying to escape his fate. Yet, step by step, they are getting closer and closer to each other.

Their encounter is unavoidable. Then, the Woman’s prosaic part sets the tone:


”You were a red rose, while you were with me.

But your heart withered, when you left me.”


”Were – withered – left,” echoes the Man, taking what has been said out of their context. This comment is thought-provoking. Is this all the other party remembers? How can a man oversimplify it to such an extent?

According to one possible interpretation, from here the story is told in retrospect: it is a flashback on the past of their relationship. The other possibility is that we witness the couple trying to revive their vanished love and their doomed relationship. The previously-shared experience and the memories of the delirious, happy hours they spent together (walking in nature, riding horses, motoring) come to life. But, as in every relationship, the early unclouded period is followed by the phase of domination over each other. The desire for possessing the partner is expressed when the Man tries to brand the Woman. This marks the beginning of the deterioration of their relationship. While in the happy period the Man literally put the Woman on a pedestal, now he treats her like a dog and hearing the lines of the poem one can suspect that he would not refrain from physical abuse either.

Passion increases, and the dancers are sweating more profusely as well. I recommend the next episode to all whose attention has not been captured by the performance yet, as even the most skeptical viewer will pay attention to the erotic scene in the heart of the play. It is acted out by using a tube, without the two characters directly touching each other. The object is present as a metaphysical channel connecting the two bodies. The sexual intercourse itself is depicted through subtle effects conveyed by it, like the rhythmic changes in the partner’s breathing. The actors’ performance is brilliant: they captivate the viewer not only with their movements but with sounds and facial expressions as well.

It was interesting when, at the beginning of the scene, Klári Varga, moved out of her character, switched on the lights, picked up the microport, and put it down the same way at the end of the scene. In my opinion, theatrically, this technical diversion could have been performed less spectacularly, but it still received heavy emphasis. The director’s intention was probably to distance us from the topic.

After the climax, we can see further attempts to live a normal life together, but they all end in failure. The dance of the couple sometimes imitates the moves of unbroken foals. It is interesting to observe that, while the characters have their own motifs, after a while they also take over elements from each other’s sequences of movements and adapt them. Similarly, in a relationship the partners interact with each other, smooth all the rough edges, at the same time partly grind each other. Just like millstones…

The solution is apparently simple, yet dramatic. The Woman dances out of the stage, and we can only see her projection on the curtain. She puts on her gypsy skirt on and starts carousing wryly as though nothing disturbing had happened. For the outside world, she displays the will to live, however, we can suspect the storms within her soul. The Man is also returns to nihilism with apparent inner tranquility. In the play, the Man embodies the rigid, emotionally almost unshakeable, sometimes nihilistic attributes, while the Woman embodies frailty, high emotions, at the same time crampedness, too.

Stage presence requires huge physical effort on the part of both performers, not to mention the emotional energy bursts influencing the audience. Klári Varga’s acting matches those of professional dancers, but her qualities as a singer and an actress are undeniable as well. Her mimics simply attract the attention of the audience.

Although the title of the play is borrowed from a volume of gypsy folk poetry, there are no gypsy features in the play, except for the final dance of the Woman. Here we can see our common human behavior reflected. Dance and movement are the universal language. As I see it, the message of the play is conveyed the best if we just let ourselves get under its emotional influence, and if we do not desperately try to understand and explain every single element of this pan artistic flurry.

This type of relational scheme might be familiar to many. We often fight each other in life, just like the dancing couple does on stage. Yet, watching our everyday struggles with the beloved person from the outside gives absolution.


Dóra Judit Liptai

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