We were very impressed by the resilience and professionalism of the theatre troop from Porto who visited Cluj last weekend.  

With a showing of The Crucible, the first thing I noticed is how the name of the play seems to change in three languages, to be about the witches.  The second thing, the poster.  There was a crowd outside the cinema.

It was only 40 lei (less than ten euros) to get a balcony seat.  It was well worth the price of a ticket, and any subsidies that might go into it.  (If you want to see Untold, those shows cost show much that they offer payment in instalments).

On top, there was an interesting bar.  The bar is by the cheap seats, who would have thought?  Anyway, the full price seats are closer to the toilet.  A lot of interesting pictures to look at when you get there early, and statues of playwrights and theatre personalities.

Anyway,  after being directed to our seats (the staff heard us speak English and spoke English to us), we eagerly awaited the play.  I spoke about the last play I saw, and didn’t at first notice that there were actually three subtitles to see from the balcony.

Then, an announcement came, in three languages, the most difficult for me to understand first. 

 I heard something about a lead actor, and a death.  I was expecting the worst.  It was a sad time.  Would be we refunded and told to go home?  What would happen to the rest of the troupe?  How would they deal with the news?

As I understood better, it became clear that the lead actor was not dead, but attending the funeral of a close family member.  Still sad news, of course, but I was happy to be wrong.

The rest of the cast was there already, along with the director.  And the director announced that he would be reading the lines after saying, “but the show must go on.”

And the understudy?  Well, there probably is an understudy, in Porto, but I am guessing he wasn’t flown over.

Anyway, when I heard the words,  “read through” I did not expect a full performance.

I was again pleasantly surprised.  The director, although reading his lines, could act. He knew the words, at least their meaning and the way to communicate them.  A part of me suspects he did not need the papers, he just was holding them in case he forgot.  By looking he could keep his place in case a word escaped him.  

The rest of the cast had their roles down perfectly.  Although the director was reading from a piece of paper, it was easy to forget that if you looked up at the subtitles (or supertitles?) instead of at the stage.

Even looking at the stage, it was only when the director was ripping up a piece of paper that him holding his lines was obvious to me.  (There were documents ripped in the story.). This was only because despite his character ripping a piece of paper in the story, he was still holding his lines.

This was a remarkable performance, I can see why it was shown at the Hungarian theatre in Cluj.  Cluj is home to many great actors, including the two great theatre troupes (Romanian and Hungarian language), Mircea Bravo and his spin offs, and the smaller troupes whose names I am not yet familiar with.  If you ever get invited here to do a play in a foreign language like English or Portuguese, take it as a high complement.

While I do not like the sad circumstances that brought upon this slightly altered performance, I still am glad I was there. Thank you to both the Hungarian language theatre and the troupe from Porto for providing a great evening that inspires us all to do our best in adversity, but is also a work of art and entertainment in its own right.  Even if I had not known why the man was holding that piece of paper, I still think the evening would have been well spent.  As they say, when it was well performed, you don’t always need to know what is being said to know what is going on.  I am sure a few people in the audience learned a few words of Portuguese that evening, as we witnessed a remarkable performance.

I assume that the play might have been even better with the lead actor in it, but it is hard to imagine how.  Perhaps I have an excuse to go visit Porto now.  (And hopefully, when I am there, after seeing the Crucible with the correct actor, I will happen upon a visiting troupe from Cluj.)

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