Gellért Endre: Galileo, 1956.

Context of the Performance in Theatrical Culture

In 1952, Benedek András, the dramaturg of the Nemzeti Színház approached Németh László, who at the time mostly worked on translations, and suggested he write an original play for the theatre. The play he created was ‘a document of its era, depicting the changes in intellectual atmosphere over five difficult years.’ The finished work was...

Dramatic text, dramaturgy

Until October 1956, the play underwent multiple changes, the most relevant of which is the difference between the two versions of the final act, the two fourth acts. Galileo reached its final form in 1953, according to the accounts of Németh László (as well as Benedek András) the two of them worked together on Szentendre...

Direction

Gellért Endre’s direction is ‘a masterful and exemplary achievement’, because he reveals the intellectual, argumentative dialogues of Németh László’s ‘paper-theatre’ with the tools of psychologically realist theatre – this created the tension inherent in the performance. A typical aspect of its form is that ‘while he himself disappears behind the performance’, he worked extremely hard...

Acting

The role of the aging Galileo was given to Bessenyei Ferenc, and after the long wait, critics didn’t simply praise Gellért Endre’s direction, but his performance as well. Multiple reviews note that ‘Galileo’s figure and fate fills the play’, so Bessenyei’s acting is clearly the weightiest theatrical achievement within the performance. In the early fifties...

Sight and Sound

The visual designer, Varga Mátyás followed the tradition of the Meiningen Ensemble and the pre-existing trend of staging historical plays, and created an atmosphere that evoked a reference to the play’s setting and was recognisable as Galileo’s environment. Therefore the architectural styles, the sets, the internal spaces and the placements of light and shadow adhered...

Impact and Posterity

With the beginning of the revolution on the 23rd of October 1956, the evening performance was halted in the middle, the theatre was closed for weeks, but the performance stayed on repertoire in the 1957-58 season, and it was performed more than a hundred times. After the premier, multiple writings, studies and debates were published,...