Talk with Tamás Szabó Kimmel

MIHÁLY DÉS’s novel appeared a couple of years ago with the title BAROQUE FROM PEST. People started guessing immediately who is who in the novel because it is a basic novel about the intellectuals of the eighties in Pest with real places and stories and changed names. No wonder, says TAMÁS SZABÓ KIMMEL, one of the main characters of the play Baroque from Pest, that ANDRÁS KERN fell in love with it after reading it and called Mihály Dés, who he had not known before, invited him for a coffee and said to him: ‘Let’s make a play from it. I will play the Grandmother.’    

– I like the performance Baroque from Pest – continues Tamás Szabó Kimmel –, because it takes place in an era which I find very exciting. I remember nothing from that year, 1984 when I was born – he laughs. – But it is wonderful to relive András Kern’s experience with him. It was his idea to set it on stage and basically it is about his youth, he had a strong bond with this world and what it is about. It was a great pleasure to listen to what was around me when I was this size (he shows), ok, a bit bigger...But seriously, I like it because it has many common points with my present ego so it was not difficult to fit in it. I have a bond with it.

– So what is this character like?

– Not a lovable character. But exciting and complicated. Many people told me at the beginning of the rehearsals that I should say the opening monologue more personably. But I don’t want to be loved at the beginning. And I am not sure that I have to be loved. It will turn out during the story. I don’t have to be funny. He makes jokes, has girlfriends, he is the king of the night while he is living happily with his grandmother with whom they love each other very much. He is a real swindler from Pest. He writes, writes screenplays, he is planning to defect with his friend– but not really. That is why he is not really a lovable character –he keeps whining from the beginning of the play, he keeps whining all the time… He has everything yet nothing is good enough for him. And by the end everything falls apart around him. But in the meantime a lot of exciting things happen to him. For example people try to rope him in to join the party, he loses his girlfriend, his grandmother dies... It is possible to start liking him. I felt he was someone who did not go from A to B but he is flowing in A...And then I felt where the points are when he could be more lovable. I realised that I have a lot in common with this character.

– How much do we need to know the near past, the history of the eighties to understand the story?

– As it orientates very much towards Pest I was a bit scared at the beginning how much people from for example Debrecen will know what the Fészek or FMK is… Or how will the young people of today be able to identify themselves with this. And then Elemér Ragályi and his son, Marci, who is also an outstanding cinematographer, came to see one of the performances and they both liked it. Elemér said with tears in his eyes: ‘Well, well, our youth was so good…’  Then he became nostalgic. Marci said he had no idea of these places, he didn’t really know them but the span of the boy, the way he bewails and how things fall apart around him is something he could understand very well and could identify himself with and thus many things became interesting. I heard from many people that the elder generation can meet with their own youth and it is interesting for the youth to look back to their parents’ world. And everyone can identify with the personal relationships shown in the play.

– Are there any more cult places like the Fészek or the FMK – the legendary Young Artists’ Club? Are there any stories to share?

–I hope so. That my child will grow into an open and inquisitive adult who is interested in what happened to their parents. There will be talks. Our lives also have their party places like here, near Dohány Street there is a famous party quarter. And then we will keep repeating ’you know, my son...’ So things are constant.

– The team is a mixed age group. There are people who lived at that time, not only the main character, András Kern but the costume designer Nóra Cselényi, too – and there are people who were born at that time like Tamás Szabó Kimmel or the director Pál Göttinger. Was it typical that people said anecdotes during the rehearsals?

–Yes, on one hand there were a lot of anecdotes but on the other hand the rehearsals were just like all the others. The director, Pali Göttinger – who belongs to my generation really dug into this era. Once he even played us a voice recording of her grandmother sending a message to her relatives in Canada… Long time ago it went like this, they brought the cassette to the relatives and there they could listen to granny messaging from Budapest about what is happening there and that you should be good… Kern also told me a lot about this era. It wasn’t boring. It is very good for an actor. Every single anecdote made us richer and more.