Soft Hungarian tones of piano-filled sadness ring throughout the tiny room. On screen, a man shoots himself. Rita Bozi begins to speak.
Rita Bozi, a Canadian-born Hungarian writer, actress and dancer is in Vogar reading from her piece, “The Damage is Done,” which is heavily influenced by her Hungarian background. Adopting the ‘Ryeberg LIVE ‘ (see ryeberg.com) method of blending spoken word with accompanying video clips, “The Damage is Done” deals with Rita’s various memories growing up as a ‘reunion child’ of Hungarian parents in Canada after a long, seven year separation.
Rita’s work takes a gritty look at the realities of the 1950s Hungarian revolution, beginning her performance with video clip of the infamous “Gloomy Sunday,” also known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song.” Composed in 1933 by Rezsõ Seress, “Gloomy Sunday” captures the sense of hopelessness permeating amongst oppressed Hungarians under Communist regime. Rumour has it that this song sparked a series of suicides in the 1930s and, with this in mind, the haunting melody echoing against the stony, outbuilding’s walls set the tone for Bozi’s first performance of the evening, “The Damage is Done.”
THE DAMAGE IS DONE
In her performance, Rita explores how the fear and stress that her pregnant mother endured during her years alone in Hungary whittled their way into the cells and soul of her unborn son, Rita’s older brother. After Rita’s father fled the country in the 1957 uprising, her mother was forced to stay behind in Hungary and bring up her son alone, frightened and repressed. As Rita suddenly sweeps the story off to Canada, the listener arrives in this new, Communist-free country, which is now home to Rita’s re-united parents and older brother. Rita recounts the tensions growing up in a household dominated by memories of the past, of her father’s inability to bond with his estranged son, and her role—as a Canadian-born ‘reunion child’—to heal wounds that can never really be healed.
Rita’s performance of “The Damage is Done” is a powerful, raw exploration of how a terrible past can linger and be just as stale in the present, how a revolutionary spirit can travel right down a mother’s placenta and into her unborn child. With its well-timed video clips, Rita’s bold new fusion of story-telling with the visual and aural (known as the ‘Ryeberg’) takes static, fixed words off the page and lets them hover in the air, bitter-sweet and moving.
MY FAIR LADY—THE PUNK VERSION
Rita’s second performance of the evening, “My Fair Lady—The Punk Version,” couldn’t have been more different, but nonetheless just as gritty and compelling as “The Damage is Done.” In “My Fair Lady – The Punk Version,” the listener is taken to 1980s Winnipeg and meets Jody, a young wide-eyed ballerina who is just waking up to the world. Then Jody meets Adam. An older man with a punk-rock attitude, Adam tutors Jody and introduces her to the underground anarchist movement, helping her to develop her own independent mind against the background of her controlling and oppressive boyfriend, Keith. Full with sex, drugs and punk-rock-and-roll, Rita’s performance not only explores the willing loss of innocence, but also has the same spirit of revolution evident in “The Damage is Done.”
As Rita narrates the story, however, she also projects a series of images onto the wall so that the audience not only hears Jody’s point of view, but also more importantly sees it. As Rita places photograph on top of photograph, she brings to life what Jody is seeing but also mirrors the building up of experience, layer upon layer of things learnt by the young dancer Jody.
Rita’s two performance pieces, “The Damage is Done” and “My Fair Lady—The Punk Version,” may vary in content and subject matter, but both reverberate with the stirrings of revolution, the spirit of change. Located in a small, grass-roofed building out in Vogar, the audience enjoyed an evening of tightly written, well-executed performance that left a tinge of both sadness and hope. Rita allowed the audience a deeper understanding of revolution, and how it has the power to make or break: whether fighting for freedom from Communist oppression, or experiencing a mini-revolution within one’s own self.
Rita Bozi is taking up a writing residency in Iceland and has produced a wide variety of material, including ‘State Controlled Paprika’ (which won 3rd prize in the Great Canadian Literary Hunt, This Magazine 2012), and of course ‘The Damage is Done’ and ‘My Fair Lady – Punk Version.’ Her play ‘52 Pick Up’ has been translated into Icelandic, and she continues to work on her book ‘Uprising.’ For more information, visit her website: www.ritabozi.com