Authors: Kristóf Kelemen, Bence György Pálinkás
Directed by Kristóf Kelemen, Bence György Pálinkás
about the production
In 2014, the European Union proposed a regulation on the prevention and controlled introduction and dissemination of invasive alien species. The list of flora and fauna, which according to the Union pose a threat to the biodiversity of the European continent, also included the black locust tree (false acacia) and the American mink, both brought to Europe from North America. The proposal, whose objective is systematically to tackle the presence against alien species on European land, was contested by several member states for whom these species represent an important economic commodity. While Denmark is a major producer of mink fur coats, Hungary is among the largest producers and exporters of acacia honey.
Modest demands on the quality of soil, a quick rate of growth as well as its versatility have made the false acacia into one of the most beloved trees in Hungary that now constitutes almost one fourth of the overall forest vegetation. Despite its potentially negative impact on the environment, the false acacia is an important woody plant, partly because of the extraordinary durability of its wood. But it is more than merely an economic asset for the country for more than three hundred years now, the tree has served as a source of inspiration for Hungarian writers and artists. Along with acacia honey, the false acacia tree is a national symbol recorded in the collection of Hungarian values (Hungarikum). In the context of the European regulation, it also became the topic of heated debate in Hungary when an originally ecological discussion turned political. How can an indigenous American plant become a national symbol in a country where it was imported merely a few centuries ago? This question was the point of departure for artist Bence György Pálinkás and dramaturge and director Kristóf Kelemen.
Hungarian Acacia is a post-factual document that is not a typical example of political-documentary drama. The group of five performers headed by Pálinkás and Kelemen first founded a movement whose aim was to popularise the acacia as a symbol of the open society. The making of this production was accompanied by events at which the authors visited emblematic sites from the history of the Hungarian nation and marked them with an acacia symbol – from a national park to antique volumes in the library. Video recordings of these grotesque events mapping the movement’s activities are projected on stage and form an inseparable part of the performance. In addition, the members of the movement reconstruct these events during the performance, quote political speeches, offer acacia honey and Hungarian pálinka to their audiences and perform their own anthem to the acacia.
Their work, however, is not based on a detailed analysis of facts about the European regulation and the ensuing political controversy, spearheaded by the leader of the Hungarian government Viktor Orbán. The creators also prudently avoid pathos; the piece brims with humour and irony, which underlines the absurdity of the nationalist and populist attitude of the Prime Minister, who exploits the situation as a means in his struggle against the dictate of Brussels.
Ultimately, the young authors’ work can be seen in a much broader context. It is no less than a paradox that an imported tree can become the national symbol of a country characterised by a burgeoning level of xenophobia against racial and national minorities. By drawing on the example of the false acacia tree, the creators address certain types of migration, inclusion and isolation that are connected with the current negative stance of a large portion of society against accepting migrants from the Middle East.
“To understand the performance, one doesn’t need any special botanical knowledge; the production doesn’t take sides in ecological questions either. But it does point out clearly how various ideologies that use scientific facts in their arguments (taken out of context) exploit the black locust tree in order to prove their views or justify their own personal interests.”
(Kitti Gosztola, Artmagazin)
“The genre of the performance is balanced between the labour movement’s choral speaking, educational slam poetry, and multimedia performance.”
(Sisso Artner, szinhaz.net)
“…Hungarian Acacia, the most cunning, wittiest, most poetic and trenchantly political production of the 4th edition of dunaPart.”
(Esther Slevogt, nachtkritik.de)
direction, concept: Kristóf Kelemen, Bence György Pálinkás
music: Kristóf Márton
assistant director: Anita Totobé
actors’ coordination: Réka Judit Kiss
set construction: Dániel Balázsi, Fanni Hegedűs
light and sound technician: Mátyás Major
photography: Krisztina Csányi
production manager: Judit Böröcz
performers: Angéla Eke, Katalin Homonnai, Kristóf Kelemen,
Márton Kristóf, Bence György Pálinkás
co-producers: Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, Workshop Foundation
Bence György Pálinkás (1988) is currently a doctoral student at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts. He collaborates on various artistic projects, leads experimental public educational courses, runs a studio and serves as President of the Young Artists’ Studio Association. His most recent exhibitions include: The Specific Emotional: Between Repetition and Event, Liljevalchs Hub, Sweden; The Promised Light, Tartu Valgus Festival, Estonia; #Bartók, CAFe Budapest, Ludwig Museum, Hungary; On the Edge, Tabačka Gallery, Slovakia.
Kristóf Kelemen (1990) is a young director and dramaturge who lives in Budapest. His successful documentary theatre piece While You’re Reading This Title, We’re Talking about You has been staged at several Hungarian and international festivals, including Temps D’Image in Cluj and the TESZT Festival in Timisoara. Kelemen graduated from the Academy of Drama and Film in Budepst, where is currently a postgraduate student. He works as a dramaturge at the Radnóti Miklós Theatre and directs his original projects.
Video of the production: yes
Scripra of the production: SK subtitles, HU, EN
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