DramaReviewSouth WestSpoken Word

History History History – Exeter Phoenix

Director: Deborah Pearson
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts

History is a complex thing, and whether familiar or unknown family history is something everyones thought about. Canadian born theatre maker Deborah Pearson brings us History History History, a poignant look at her own history and the history of a country that was once home to her Grandparents.

Resembling something more of a lecture than a theatre performance, Pearson sits behind a long desk centre stage. Behind her a large screen is used to play film and subtitles as well as enlarged political and personal photographs of Hungary and her family. To her left there is an OHP which lends itself to the more time focused elements of the show, displaying both the political timeline of Hungary after the Second World War and the timeline of a film. And to her right, upon another much smaller screen. Two microphones give space for her to talk back to the people speaking over the footage, one in front of her when she’s facing the audience and one behind. All this controlled by Pearson from the table via a series of knobs and buttons.

At the beginning of the show we are encouraged to look for the moments in our history that can be pinpointed as ‘why’ we’re here, whether that be The French Revolution or the Plague or even Orson Welles “fucking up his second film”. A problematic concept, but one for which Pearson has a very concrete personal answer, for her it is a film. Playing on a small screen throughout the 90 min performance is a Hungarian comedy football film. A film which was supposed to be released on the 4th of November 1956 at the Corvin Cinema, a place where instead on that day the Hungarian revolution and many lives were lost.

The title of the film, roughly translating to English as The Wonder Striker and is a political satire based around a pen salesman that is mistaken for famous footballer Ferenc Puskas. Its inception and production spanning one of the most important times in Hungarian political history, it was scheduled for release in November 1956 but would not be shown for over a year after that, and not without considerable edit. Timing the performance to the duration of the film in this way gives the piece a more experiential quality for the audience.

When on the back screen the film is translated for the audience with English subtitles, introduces a narrative all of its own. Up to a certain point in the performance it is unclear whether the subtitles are authentic or not and it is through these subtitles that the real exploration of humanity and loving for connection and it is here that we are finally shown the real meaning behind the film.

Pearson reveals many things about her own family history, doing so by playing audio of conversations with her mother and grandmother over the film and family images. She encourages them to translate parts of the film and remember their time in Hungary. These intimate moments are played with Pearson’s back to the audience, as if directly speaking to her family while watching the film.

A beautiful merging of family and history, History History History draws on the personal and political to become a bittersweet exploration of time as uncompromising, unstoppable. Intricately crafted and lovingly presented, this is a show thats not to be missed.

Runs until15 March 2017 then continues to tour | Image: Contributed

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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