Major Tamás: Measure for Measure, 1973.

Context of the Performance in Theatrical Culture

Major Tamás first directed Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in 1973. Diverging from the Hungarian interpretative conventions, the central character of his direction wasn’t Angelo, but the Duke. Major’s interest in the play coincides with the heyday of bitter comedies in Hungary, parallel to their international rediscovery. These texts (Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, All’s...

Dramatic text, dramaturgy

Major remained faithful to the idea he referred to as ‘complete Shakespeare’, meaning he only made very minor cuts to the text. The longer text supported Major’s goal of showing the people of Vienna more clearly. In Major’s interpretation, the people seemed more sympathetic than their ruler. Unlike the ruler who’s ‘distanced from real life...

Direction

Major’s 1973 direction of Measure for Measure in the Nemzeti was the most successful work in his brechtian period as a director. This performance enlisted almost all characteristics of Major Tamás’s directorial style: constructivist set lit by chalk-white light, the symbolism of the circus, the ironic nods at the audience, the political subtext. The unquestionable...

Acting

In his 1973 Measure for Measure, Major continued Brecht’s theatrical traditions primarily in on-stage visuals, and the distancing acting style in the happy end, that emphasised its own theatricality. He combined these with lurid visual and musical solutions, and the work of the stage ensemble. The reviews emphasised the Duke (Kállai Ferenc) and Isabella (Ronyecz...

Sight and Sound

Major worked with Keserű Ilona, whose set design largely defined the performance’s atmosphere. Based on the TV recording of the performance, we can state that the basis of the set design was a three-level structure of iron beams, with grey canvases strung up between them. The Duke and his court moved on the top level,...

Impact and posterity

The 1973 Measure for Measure was, in Hungary, the catalyst for multiple more serious interpretations of the play, its circus-like milieu is echoed in Sándor János’s direction in Debrecen, while the hippy costumes in Babarczy László’s version emphasised the contemporary parallels of the play. Major returned to Measure for Measure in 1983, showing a much...