Major Tamás: Life of Galileo, 1962.

Context of the Performance in Theatrical Culture

This is the first piece of Major Tamás’s Brecht cycle, the first performance of the play in Hungary, and the second Brecht premier in the history of the Nemzeti Színház. For the theatrical profession, this premier was the test of the season, just as the performances of Schweik in the Second World War and The...

Dramatic text, dramaturgy

Although the rehearsals of Life of Galileo had to be finished by Brecht’s student, Erich Engel, the text used in the premier, on the 15th of January, 1957, was finalised by the author before he died. Among other things, he deleted the 15th scene from the canonised (third) version of the play, and as a...

Direction

Major’s direction wasn’t a slavish imitation of the Berliner Ensemble production. Instead, it inspired him to thoroughly study the differences in the actors’ performances (especially Ernst Busch’s work), and apply his findings in Hungary. Since he was strengthened in his conviction that ‘the mark of a modern performance is precision’, this definition of modernity gave...

Sight and Sound

The visuals of the performance were defined by the subtitles projected onto the back curtain, as well as the painted backdrops and the wooden set pieces that could be disassembled and reassembled in different positions, which, – together with props that were recognisable and used in accordance with their purpose (washbasin, telescope, wedding dress, book,...

Acting

Németh Antal, former acting coach, created the first ‘workshop with compulsory performance’ in the history of Hungarian theatre, that worked within institutional theatre-making, adapting to the given artistic constraints, but pushing the mental and physical limits of the actors in his care, in order to explore the possibilities of the brechtian form of expression. He...

Impact and posterity

The perceived inadequacy of the actors was one of the reasons the theatrical profession did not see Major Tamás’s direction as a full success. It was considered an interesting and important experiment, and praised for renewing the acting style of Bessenyei Ferenc. The subsequent directors of Brecht in the Nemzeti, Babarczi László and Csiszár Imre...