999 at the Cockpit Theatre
“From moment to moment, 999 is funny, haunting, and just plain mystifying
The Voila! Europe Festival is currently running at the Cockpit Theatre, which means it’s an opportunity to see some of Europe’s most intriguing emerging companies and their latest work. Chance of the Hunter is a young Hungarian company who have come to the festival with their bleakly humorous, post-apocalyptic show 999. 999 is a multimedia show using live performers, handheld cameras, and a large screen for projecting both images and subtitles. The show is mostly in Hungarian, but every so often the company breaks out their English, and it’s impressive, despite their concerns about being understood.
It turns out that understanding is the key to this ominous vision of a world cooking in climate change. From moment to moment, 999 is funny, haunting, and just plain mystifying. It’s a non linear narrative about a maker of animal documentaries named Donald Tenborogh who abandons his work in despair. At various points in the show, Donald lists all the species which are disappearing as a result of climate change. He becomes obsessed with termites, probably because they are the one species that might even thrive as temperatures increase on our planet. Humans will not be so fortunate. Donald’s thoughts—or dreams—it’s never made clear, are presented to us in a series of short scenes, in which we encounter everything from rich people arguing about who gets to use the jacuzzi in their survival bunkers, to game shows that aim to find the ultimate “survivor.” In 999 survival means finding ways to live in a world subject to random and terrifying weather events, scorching heat, gas masks to help with unbreathable air, and fascistic governments that force a mother to give up a child to be raised by the state. That’s a lot of significant subject matter to put in a seventy five minute show. To their credit, the Chance of the Hunter Company introduce these themes with wry humor, as well as commitment. The performers give us an all too real insight into what it might feel like, living in a rapidly heating world.
Director and performer Gábor Viktor Kozma and the company use the most minimal of set design and costumes, both designed by Zsuzsi Szöke, to make the point. Performers Gedeon András, Boróka Kovács, Kozma, Emese Nagyabonyi, Blanka Szekeres and Fanni Zádor use their bodies to tell the story, helped by video cameras that show their performances from different angles, often in close up. 999 is a harsh world, and harsh camera angles bring added emphasis. Add in gas masks, a polar bear head, and oddly beautiful floating plastic capes that drift in the wake of the wearers, and 999 begins to seem like one of those dreams you’ll remember vividly when you wake up. Unfortunately, like dreams, much may seem incomprehensible when you reassess your memories. This is largely due, at least for English speakers, to the fact that the English subtitles on the screen are often obscured by the video projections. It’s like flying blind, even if it’s beautiful up there, listening to Hungarian, with striking images on screen and on stage, and atmospheric music composed by Márk Pásztor.
It’s always good to get a front row seat to watch what our Europeans friends and neighbours are working on, so check out the Voila! Europe website at the Cockpit Theatre, if the work of Chance of the Hunter, and other, equally experimental companies, appeals to you. The Cockpit Theatre is a welcoming space, and chances are good that you’ll find company members at the bar before or after the show, happy to tell you more about their work.
Reviewed on 11th November 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Previously reviewed at this venue: