What were the reactions to the piece back then?
DSZ: After our first performance there was a fantastic immediate response: some members of the audience grabbed brooms and helped us clean our ‘props’, our waste, as we make a lot of mess during the show.
RSZ: I have an even more powerful memory from the first revival performance at Móricz Zsigmond Square. There were two homeless people who genuinely scared us in the beginning. There is a scene where the performers interact with the audience with the help of dustbins, and these homeless people had a very aggressive and disparaging attitude towards what was happening. Then after the performance, they came up to us with tears in their eyes and apologized for their behaviour. They were so touched and surprised by what they experienced.
In a theatre, the audience is already filtered, and there’s a certain agreement between the performers and the spectators. But these rules don’t exist in the street. It’s not your usual audience that shows up for a 20–25 minute street performance – you have to be able to grab the attention of passers-by who are constantly running somewhere. In Hungary, street performance is appreciated very differently from a theatre show, while it’s also part of our artistic work. When we took You trash! to Germany, we were surprised by how different their attitude was – we felt that they considered it an important piece of art.
Why did you revive the work in 2017?
RSZ: The French Institute in Hungary wanted us to perform the piece at their conference on eco sustainability. At first we said no, as the original dancers weren’t available, but they asked us again next year. The Café Budapest Festival was interested as well, so we decided to go along. I had other commitments at the time, so Dániel was commissioned to rethink the piece, together with director and choreographer Máté Czakó.
DSZ: The basic philosophical background of the performance remained unchanged, but we created a few new scenes and a new musical atmosphere. I think that the company needs this kind of performance, as it is easy to take to festivals. Sometimes there is no possibility or money to travel with our theatre shows.
Ten years on, what do you think has changed about both eco sustainability and ‘human waste’?
RSZ: I think it’s getting worse and worse. There’s a scene in the piece where the space is divided into four parts. There’s a performer in each part, and they are all trying to sweep their mess into each other’s parts. In my opinion this is exactly what’s happening in the real world as well: we are trying to get rid of our mess, and we are always sweeping it to the parts of the poor, the oppressed and the less developed – when in fact we should join forces and stop producing so much mess.
DSZ: It is interesting to see that the performance had a currency back in 2008 and it has a currency now, while a lot of things have changed. For example, selective waste collection was not very prevalent in Hungary in 2008, while it is fairly prevalent today. But progress is very slow, and economic destruction much faster.
RSZ: There’s nothing in today’s society that forces us to restrict our consumption It is not considered a merit, but I think it is key to humanity’s future.
DSZ: As for the human side of things, in our new piece [The Symptoms reality in the basement] we are trying to deal with the fact that we are starting to feel worn out ourselves.
Is this a sense of burnout or something imposed on you by society?
RSZ: We’ve been talking about these things for the past 3 months and we don’t have a definite answer, but it’s a bit of both. The current situation of the performing arts scene in Hungary is exposing us to a lot of difficulties. But it’s not only us – for example, the value of academics is also questioned. The very values that we built our work on – tolerance, the importance of debate, democratic values, intellect, creativity, the possibility of progress based on talent – are questioned.
In the constant struggle for survival we are forced to work at a pace that burns us out. The sustainability of the artist’s work is an important topic as well. Emerging artists have a lot of opportunities: residencies, conferences, scholarships, meetings, but there should be opportunities for artists in later periods of their careers as well, when they need to recharge. Looking around our generation I see a lot of artists being tired, in a bad condition. In Western Europe, academics have the institution of the sabbatical that they can use to recharge. I think it comes from the recognition that scientific and artistic work cannot be pursued 24/7 for years on end. But this point of view is completely absent in Hungary. ●