Young authors workshop in Budapest

“It was very fascinating to see how my text became live speech”de

Márk Péter Vargha about his play

What was the most interesting experience for you during the workshop?

I’ve never worked in drama before, only composed short stories, and I didn’t know how to write dialogue for the stage. It was very fascinating to see how my text became live speech. I realised I have to condense the text because something you write about on one page in a short story is not the same in a dialogue. I don’t have to write down everything, only half of the story, because the other half is in the acting.

Could you tell us something about the topic of your piece?

I had written a short story about a boy who had lost his heart. It was just one page long. A family is sitting around the table, they are eating before Christmas. Nothing much happens, but suddenly the boy realises that his heart is missing, and at the end of the story he dies. But nobody recognises it – they see the blood, they see the hole, they talk about it, but they don’t understand. For example, the mother says, “There’s blood on your t-shirt, I will have to wash it tomorrow”.

So she doesn’t want to see the truth?

That was the idea. I brought this story to the workshop and we talked about how it could be transformed into a theatre piece.

At which time does it take place? Before the fall of the Iron Curtain or afterwards?

In a different time altogether. It’s a negative utopia, but it uses many elements from reality. For example, there’s a dictatorship, like in the communist era. I took many ideas from 1956 in Budapest and 1989 in Romania and mixed them to create a two-part piece. The first part takes place in the dictatorship, the second part afterwards. In the first part, the people are without hearts. The ones who hold the power press everybody to have their hearts removed in an operation, because in a dictatorship, people shouldn’t have feelings. There is a boy, though, fourteen years old, who still has his heart, because children are supposed to learn some feelings – for example the joy of working and admiration for their leaders. When this boy’s heart is removed, it grows back again, and so does his mother’s heart. She really loves her children, the boy and his younger sister, so she hides her heart, and would like to hide her son’s heart, too. But it isn’t possible, and they remove it again at home because the father, who hasn’t got a heart, is worried about his career. He would like to be the director of an agency that designs the future.

What about the second part, after the dictatorship?

Some of the characters have hearts in the second part, but become more evil, and some others, for example the father, don’t want to have a heart.

Why not?

He retired after the change and his life was better before.

What happens to the family?

They don’t have enough money, but they’ve got a secret agent in their cupboard. He was already there in the first part, and in the second part this secret agent will hire the cupboard to live in, but they all have got little money. The secret agent, who isn’t so secret anymore, suggests removing the boy’s heart again – which had grown back – in order to sell it. At first the family refuses, but after some time they give in and make money with it. The heart grows back again and again, and they open up a factory. The heart becomes a product, because in this country many people had lost their hearts in the time of the dictatorship. But the boy becomes weaker and develops some kind of illness. In addition, he has a girlfriend: When he has got a heart, he loves her and we has no heart, he doesn’t. In the end, the boy dies. After the last operation the heart won’t grow back again.

Was there ever the idea to have a happy end?

No, because I think the world never gets better. We will always have problems, and we will always have happy and good things, and the choices are what you decide to see.

What was good in the first part, during the dictatorship?

It’s the same as in a real dictatorship. Everybody has a flat. Everybody has a job. It wasn’t important whether or not it was a real job, you were just doing something. Too many people were doing nothing in their job, but the worker who had work then and doesn’t have any now, he liked it the way it was before. Now there’s freedom, but it can’t be called real freedom because as humans, we can never attain that.

The interview was conducted by Aimée Torre Brons and Martin Hager.