Roma Heroes – V. International Roma Theatre Festival
Independent Theater Hungary organises its fifth international theatre meeting. Year by year, various Roma theatre companies come to Budapest with performances that the Hungarian audience has not seen before. Their main goal is to share several stories about the many-sided Roma theatre full of values. This year’s five productions – including Czech, Irish, Slovak and two Hungarian – cover the theme of family heritage, and the contradictory experiences of the different generations. Linked to the topic, the festival motto is “Families and Fights”.
The festival focuses on the family. Instead of an idealised family of commercials smiling at us from nice picture frames, an emotional maze of flesh-and-blood relationships unfolds before us, which may be the scene of many miracles and struggles, but at least ours. The plays in the programme present a broad spectrum of this system of relationships, as the family often gives us strengths and protection against the outside world, other times, however, it can also limit our possibilities and cast a shadow over our entire lives.
Here are some of the ideas of the Roma creators raise this time: What is the story of colourful ceramic frogs in Portugal in front of shop entrances, and how do they relate to the Gypsy? What makes the life of the Irish Travellers special, and why does the majority society not stand by them even in times of tragedy? Why are (Roma) women more affected by world political change and discrimination than men? How can a Roma woman have a world-renowned career in the second half of the 18th century and hold a violin instead of a wooden spoon? How can we preserve our inner integrity and be able to cling to our loved ones when everything around us falls apart in war?
The festival programme, which combines different art forms – music, literature, performing arts – is for all those who go to the theatre to get to know new worlds and question their own usual points of view. This year, the 15-year-old Independent Theater Hungary will guide us on this journey. On occasion of the anniversary, the company presents the cornerstone of Roma theatre history: a digital collection of Roma theatre and drama, which fills a huge gap in the history of theatre. The presentation of the collection will take place on the opening day on May 5th.
The punk opera called Frogtales, sung with spicy humour, presents the lives of three generations of a family through a frog metaphor. In Portugal, the ceramic frogs on display indicate where the Roma are undesirable. The ‘frog family’ in the play fights to break out of the ‘swamp’ assigned to them and wants to be accepted by the majority society. They fight and do a lot for social integration, they change from generation to generation, while the youngest member of the family succeeds, he becomes a star thanks to his musical studies. It is a question, though, how real the success is.
Writer – Rodrigó Balogh and Márton Illés
Director – Rodrigó Balogh
Cast – István Babindák, Orsolya Balogh, Nóra Nemcsók, Norbert Oláh, Dávid Varga
Music – István Babindák, Máté A. Kovács
Translator (EN) – Viktória Kondi
The Actor Theatre, Košice brings the play Helver’s Night by Helmar Villqist to our festival. The performance presents Helver and Klara’s evening spent together in the Europe of the 1930s, while civil war is raging around them. Their controversially beautiful and mysterious relationship is the only handhold for both of them. The woman takes care of the man with mental problems, and as the crowd gets turbulently instable out there, they are trapped in their kitchen that is only seemingly a safe haven. Gradually, we learn more about who they are and what really connects them.
Writer – Ingmar Villqist
Director – Anton Korenčí
Cast – František Balog, Diana Semanová
Set design – Silvia Korenčiová
Translator (EN) – Lucia Faltinova
Translator (HUN) – Margit Garajszki
Mama / Dajori
Through the fate of four generations, the performance Mama of the Czech ARA Art Company reveals to us how unfairly burdened the Roma women are by the adversities of history. Four stories, four eras, represented by different writers, based on personal interviews. In the first we get to know the contradictory but predictable everyday life of Czechoslovakia before World War II, then we get a glimpse into the communist era. The third part, set in the ’70s, shows how Roma children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in state care. Finally, the closing story tells the trauma of women who were illegally sterilized in the ’80s and have been carrying this burden to this day. With this play, the company is trying to draw attention to the importance of the issue and at the same time, help the victims to get the compensation they are legally entitled to from 2022 onwards.
Director – David Tišer
Performer – Pavlína Matiová, Michal Žolták
Playwright – Líza Zima Urbanová
Orchestra – Roman Horváth, Milan Kroka, Tibor Žida
Translator (EN) – James Morgan
Translator – (HUN) – Anna Kolláth
Ireland Shed a Tear?
The performance of the Traveller Wagon Wheel Company shows how the majority society, and the Irish state treats the travellers, through the story of an Irish fire in Ireland in 2015. At the same time, the play commemorates the ten victims of the tragedy in Carrickmines: five children and five adults lost their lives at the site, including a pregnant mother. The tragedy would have been preventable. This raises several questions concerning the situation of the Travellers and the contradictory conduct of the State. Michael Collins, with his 16-year-old son, Johnny, uses songs and poems to tell the story of the inhuman conditions Travellers had to live in after the fire.
Writer – Michael Collins
Director – Anthony Fox
Cast – Michael Collins, Johnny Collins, Catherine Collins
Translator – Edina Szabados
Czinka Panna- The Dance of the Witch
The play Czinka Panna – The Dance of the Witch written by Barnabás Boda-Novy presents the life and courage of the legendary female Gypsy violinist. Panna was not afraid to oppose the conventions of the age that a woman is responsible for raising children and running a household. Thanks to her talent and landlord’s support, she had a great career as a virtuoso violinist, founding the first Gypsy band, smoking a pipe, and wearing men’s clothing. Accompanied by romantic, authentic music, the piece depicts the woman who defined Gypsy music in Hungary for centuries and became a dominant figure in Roma culture.
Director – Emília Boda-Novy
Writer – Barnabás Boda-Novy
Producer – Rodrigó Balogh
Cast – István Babindák, Zoltán Baranyi, Ramóna Farkas, Máté Pásztor, Béla Vidák
Translator (EN) – Viktória Kondi
Roma Heroes concert
Want to get a glimpse into the world of heroes through music? If you join us, you can find out who the Roma musicians see as heroes. If you are interested in the world of heroes and would like to take part in a journey where we will present the works of the most famous Gypsy musicians, stay with us!
Band leader: Máté A. Kovács
Band members: István Babindák, Gusztáv Balogh, Lili Sárközi
“Theatre belongs to everyone.”
The festival is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
The festival is supported by the Embassy of Ireland, Budapest.
The event is supported by the Visegrád Fund, the Slovak Institute, the Czech Centre, Goethe Institute and Bortársaság.
Roma Heroes Programme
Since 2017, Independent Theater Hungary has been organizing the first international Roma theatre meeting of the European Union every year. Roma theatre companies and artists from many countries are presented at the festival. In doing so, we draw attention to the values of Roma theatre, the situation of our Roma communities, focusing on the challenges of value-driven people and dramatic heroes. Based on the performances shown at the festivals, we created an educational methodology, as well as implemented workshops and university teacher courses. From the works presented, we have published the first two volumes of the world’s first sequel of international Roma dramas entitled Roma Heroes, and a digital collection of Roma theatre and drama based on the cultural values we have collected co far. The official launch is going to be on May 5th, 2022.
Further information may be requested: