Going to theater in Budapest with a foreign friend? Far from impossible!

The programs of most theaters in the capital are also accessible with English subtitles, which means that going to the theater with a foreign friend or a non-Hungarian-speaking relative is absolutely possible. However, it's important to go to a theater where subtitles are easily readable.

With our non-Hungarian-speaking expat friends, it's easy to find entertainment options in Budapest: the baths, the zoo, and classical music concerts are accessible, and exhibitions are usually available in two languages. The situation is a bit more challenging at the cinema; while it can be difficult to find screenings with original language, Hungarian films are often screened with English subtitles at Művész Cinema. At first glance, one might think that theaters primarily cater to Hungarians with Hungarian language, but many performances are available with English subtitles.

This year, Vígszínház plans to have English subtitles for performances of The Great Gatsby, The Dictator, and The Seagull. At Katona Theatre, Hedda Gabler and the Melancholy Rooms have been made available in English. The play depicting  urban loneliness, directed by Jakab Tarnóczi, won the Best Performance award at the 2022 Critics' Awards. Tickets are still available for the February 19th performance.

Photo: Dömölky Dániel/Vígszínház


At Trafó, you can find several English-language performances: the play 'I Dreamt with Grandma'  by László Göndör and Éva Katona, the texts  in 'Sawdust Symphony' are in English, and 'Figuring Age' by Börcsök Boglárka and Andreas Bolm will be in English on April 21st at 6 PM. Also available in English is a program starring Dorottya Udvaros, directed by Tamás Ördög, titled Jerome Bel. What makes this performance special is that, as part of the 'Sustainable Theater?' project, the creator and lead decided not to transport the show and the troupe in order to protect the environment. Instead, following the guidelines, a local performer and a local civil team will present the show with the help of video inserts.

This is how the 59-year-old male choreographer role is played by Hungarian actress Dorottya Udvaros.

(It's a specific request not to have a white, university-educated male play the role; according to an article by 444, the initially considered climate-conscious candidate was Pumped Gabó, but ultimately the role went to Dorottya Udvaros.)

Now, let's return to the original topic of English-language theater performances because when Jerôme Bel learned who would be portraying him in the Budapest show, he realized he had already seen Udvaros in Budapest in a production of 'Three Sisters,' even though he didn't understand a word of the Hungarian-language performance. Or did he? He wrote about it on his Facebook page.

„Dear Dorottya Udvaros,

you'll be performing my piece (which is also my life) next week! Thank you very much indeed. Especially as I've just discovered that you performed in Chekov's The 3 Sisters at the Katona Jozsef theater in Budapest. I saw this production in Budapest, where the French Institute had granted me an artist residency in the late 80s. I attended the performance even though I couldn't understand Hungarian and didn't even know the play!

Photo: Katona József Színház


Yet I was captivated by the performance, to the point of bursting into tears at the very end when the soldiers left the city.

I went off the theater understanding absolutely nothing of the experience I'd just had. Completely bewildered.

The next morning, I rushed to the library of the French Institute to read the play, and I realized that I had understood everything, right down to the smallest detail - I remember a white handkerchief in Irina's hand, and I understood that it was about a wedding... I had understood the play without understanding a word of it. I had understood through your gestures, your feelings, your vocal intonations, etc.... The staging and the acting were so eloquent that language was no longer necessary.

I often tell this story to my friends or at lectures about my work I sometimes give.I'm so amazed to be able to tell it to one of the actresses of that unforgettable evening. Since then, I've seen every production of The Three Sisters that I could. It's my favorite play in the repertoire. I love it madly, just as I loved all of you that evening in Budapest some thirty years ago.

Please receive my infinite gratitude.


Ps: All the best for the performance next week

Ps2: I still can t believe this coincidence !!!!!!!!!!!!”

Jerôme Bel's January performances are already sold out. As soon as we have information about his new shows, we will share it with the readers of enbudapestem.hu.

(Featured photo: Sawdust Symphony/Trafó)