BLACKland

BLACKland is a metaphor for the modern world, a world full of corruption, murder, child abuse, suicide, violence, pollution and war. It is a world where the ridiculous is real and real life is absurd. The Krétakör company's uncompromising vision is as uncomfortable and as compelling as such a paradox will allow.

BLACKland was devised by the Hungarian company from a series of news headlines received by director Árpád Schilling on his mobile phone over the course of six months. These headlines are displayed to the audience on a screen as text messages. They encompass statistics about Hungarian poverty, the rate of abortion, state-sanctioned neo-Nazi activities, and the actions of Hungary's army in Iraq. These headlines prompt and structure the chaotic scenes that unfold in the 90-minute performance.

In the clinical white light of a maternity ward (designed by Márton Ágh) the 13 elegantly dressed actors give birth to a world that burns visceral images on the brain. Many of these scenes are difficult to watch: the humiliation of naked men; the torture of prisoners; the violence that women will perpetrate against themselves before it is visited upon them.
Punctuating the often-disturbing scenes are choral harmonies, catchy rap rhythms, and popular songs, whose familiar upbeat tempos create a jarring juxtaposition that goes some way towards deflating an audience's discomfort, even with the dark, rewritten lyrics.

For some, this constant assault upon their senses and sensibilities might be disquieting, gratuitous, even offensive. For others, it is strangely hilarious. However, there is a particular moment towards the end of the play when the profound political purpose behind BLACKland reaches out to the audience on a personal level. But it is not when a cast member brings up the lights and proceeds to explain and interpret the "random dramaturgy" for the audience (and most especially, one has to laugh, for the critic).

It is when one of the ensemble asks an audience member to film him torturing three men, while a musician singing a rousing nursery rhyme asks us to join in. It is in this uncomfortable moment that the audience is forced to recognise its own complicity: its willingness to sit back and laugh at humanity's cruelty, to applaud violence, to clap along as a man is castrated. It is for this forced recognition that BLACKland is a truly remarkable and profoundly political piece of theatre. It is difficult but essential viewing.

Sara Keating, Irish Times