INTERVIEW WITH PÁL MÁCSAI
What is this strange affinity to Örkény?
Pál Mácsai: He is burnt in me, though I really love him but he is not the only writer I love. When I was young my generation read him. We believed we could understand him, we had fun and I followed his successes on the stage. His freshness has not changed. Nádas said he was the one among the great writers who feels the most alive. He is almost contemporary. He is read, played, used, taught at school and even an opera is written from his writing. It is unique that he is not old enough to be classic and not young enough to be contemporary. Yet his unique sharp vision can be seen even 40 years after his death. We swallow the bitter pill laughing. He is lovable.
Yes, I can understand that, this is literature. But the ‘Now Tell Me Pista’ is compiled of documents and you have played it for more than twenty years. What can be the secret of this success?
Pál Mácsai: There was a book launch in the Petőfi Literary Museum 25 years ago where Örkény presented his volume compiled of his unpublished letters and three of us read it out: László Mensáros was the old Örkény, András Bálint the middle-aged and I was the young o. When we started reading out the audience started to pay attention. It was remarkable that even Örkény’s personal letters had a theatrical effect. After that I collected the Örkény interviews, TV reports, diaries, letters and tapes from the family and got almost 500 pages. We made a volume of it cut to 50 pages with the editor Géza Bereményi. Thus we brought an ancient dramatic genre to life when someone sits down, starts talking and the others sit around and listen. Örkény has original optics for that. In the beginning we planned 20-25 performances in the Komédium seating 90 people and by now we have had about 500-600 performances. It is not my merit but that of the unique text full of honesty and humour. All I need to do is to tell it to you.
There must have been moving moments during these 21 years…
Pál Mácsai: Yes, many but there was a memorable winter afternoon when I performed at the Scientific Academy in front of a lot of scientists with doctorates and other degrees. They really enjoyed it, the atmosphere was warm. Next day I went to Nádudvar, the edge of Hortobágy and I got lost. It was a cold January and I was late. People were sitting in a small room in winter coats because there was not even heating there and they were waiting for me. Can I surprise these people, I thought. And eventually the atmosphere of the evening was even warmer than in the Academy. It also made me clear who Örkény is or can be. How much he can find everyone. He reset my delusion.
Why is the theatre named after Örkény?
Pál Mácsai: This building has a beautiful history. The real Madách Theatre was operated here until 1944 lead by Zoltán Várkonyi and Andor Pünkösti . It was a private theatre, people used to pilgrim here where contemporary western and American plays were performed. It was closed in 1944 and moved to Madách Boulevard and became The Madách Chamber Theatre. I did not want to keep this name so it was so obvious to name it Örkény as we name theatres after people we get so much of and Örkény is among our most significant playwrights.
Do you have any memories related to Gödöllő?
Pál Mácsai: On one hand this is where our performance for young teenagers ‘Csoda and Kósza’ takes place, written by Zoltán Czigány about a riding centre in Gödöllő, where his children used to ride. And it has just popped into my mind that there used to be a great independent theatrical festival in Gödöllő for years- I miss that. Independents represent a real value. This is where the Hungarian theatrical life can get inspiration from. This is why I would be happy if there were a studio theatre festival again in Gödöllő.