March 13, 2012

Hard to be a God

Filed under: 2012,Archive,Festival

March 8, 2012
Adelaide Festival

Hard to be a God
Directed by Kornel Mundruczo
Old Clipsal Site, Bowden
March 8. Tickets $ 30 – $ 69
Bookings : BASS 131 246 or
Until March 14

Hard to be a God, the much- awaited festival production by Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo and his ensemble, takes its name from a 1964 sci-fi novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. In the novel, a traveller from the future planet Earth, studies an alien planet of humans not yet evolved as far as he is. He is instructed that whatever he sees, he must not interfere, but remain dispassionate, as evolution is gradual and must be allowed to run its course.

This injunction is sorely tested in the cavernous space of the former Clipsal factory where the performance takes place. Directly in front of the audience a huge semi-trailer is parked, its canvas side flaps pulled back, to reveal a detailed reconstruction of a denim clothing sweatshop. To our left, at right angles, is a second truck canopy, the interior of which is only ever revealed by video-feed screened on its outer wall.

In no time we discover that the truck is carrying three young Hungarian women, captive to brothel mistress Mammy Blue (Annamaria Lang) but about to suffer a worse fate from the psychopathic political extremist Karoly (Roland Raba) and the foul sado-porn director Omar (Laszlo Katona). The production moves convulsively- from naturalistic scenes such as the girls undergoing medical checks from the sympathetic doctor (Zsolt Nagy) one minute, bursting into a chirpy ensemble pop song the next, and then hauled into the video studio for repulsive humiliation and physical abuse.

Mundruczo, also a film director, uses extreme schlock and awe techniques with what he calls hyper-realism – daubed fake blood, appliqué burn wounds – all delivered in hand-held video close-up. It is stagey, but the cruelty is palpable and disturbing. Late in the proceedings, the time-travelling infiltrator comes out to the audience for a volunteer to replace the third young woman about to be violated by the beastly henchmen (including the aptly named Attila, sporting, for a local name-check, a Clipsal 500 shirt). Not surprisingly, none of us moves a muscle.

This is the perennial question asked in the theatre since Euripides’ Medea, when she announces her murderous intention and neither chorus nor audience intervenes. In this case, it’s not only hard to be a god, it’s pretty hard to be in the audience. At one point, during a scene of grinding copulation, Mammy Blue says : “Jeez this is horrible”. You can’t help but agree. This production is a stylistic goulash, leaping from extremes of unpleasantness, to musical flippancy to contrived moral dilemma – so that it all starts to cancel itself out. It certainly leaves us in consternation for its victims, but uses good old exploitation to get us there.

Murray Bramwell

“It’s hard to be a member of the audience for this science fiction shlock and awe” The Australian, March 13, 2012, p.17

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment