‘Dementia’ as a social evil!

Photo credit: Dementia | 2015 Singapore International Festival Of Arts

“Dementia”, as we hear the word, it immediately brings to our minds the condition – persistent disorder of the mental processes, gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember, deteriorating cognitive functioning along with emotional apathy and so forth.

But the theatre production by Proton Theatre of Hungary named “Dementia” and directed by Kornél Mundruczó sets us thinking in radically different ways about the effect of Dementia. The play not only deals with the frailty of the human mind but sets the viewer to think more deeply about the insidious effect and fatal repercussions that can happen when a government, democracy, freedom, society develop dementia.

The play opens with admirable stage settings.  A double storey with beds for patients and another level, an open restroom and showers. …..A world famous psychiatric hospital in Hungary is forced to close down, which parallels the real life predicament of hundreds of patients who were abruptly evicted from the National Mental Asylum in Budapest in 2008. The building has become dilapidated; and a handful of patients have been left to vegetate with a psychotic doctor and nurse. A rich man plots to buy the hospital and evict the unfortunate patients onto the streets. The play moves on …

How easy is it to manipulate the hapless? Is living in a world of amnesia and ignorance a better option than reality? Is numbing a patient with modern medicines a good option or is it an escape?  Is death the end game to all our travails? Moving seamlessly from theatre to film and vice versa and utilising dark comedy, melodrama, operatic singing, violence, sex and nudity the play tries to impinge on our minds these thought provoking questions, which leaves us pondering about how do we fight these grim realities?

Kornél Mundruczó is a Hungarian actor, film director and screenwriter who has directed more than 15 short and feature films since 1998. He directed his short film AFTA shortly after leaving school which went on to win numerous international awards. Pleasant Days, his first feature film, was awarded the Silver Leopard in Locarno in 2002. His second feature film, Johanna –an operatic adaptation of the story of Joan of Arc- was presented in the Un Certain Regard in 2005. His third feature film, Delta won the Fipresci Critics’ Award in Cannes 2008. His film Tender Son was shown in the Official Selection of Cannes 2010. And his latest film White God won the prestigious Un Certain Regard prize in 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Proton Theatre, his independent theatre Company was founded in 2009.

 “Dementia” play performed in Hungarian with subtitles was staged on 13th, 14th and 15th August at Victoria Theatre as part of 2015 Singapore international festival of arts.