“They came for the prisoners early in the morning of 16 June. The courtyart of the Small Prison had been designated as the venue for the execution, and the condemned were escorted here one by one. The first to be hanged by executioner János Bogár, at 5:09 am, was the former communist leader Imre Nagy, who had called for an independent and socialist Hungary until his last breath. He was followed by two other leaders of the 1956 revolution: Pál Maléter and Miklós Gimes. Their bodies were buried in the prison courtyard, bundled in tarred paper and barbed wire. Two and a half years later, on 24 February 1961, the earthly remains of the three men were exhumed and taken under cover of darkness to the New Public Cemetery in the Rákoskeresztúr section of Budapest, where they were reburied, face down, in plot 301, the furthest from the main entrance. The burials were registered in the cemetery records under false names.”
In tribute to the memory of Imre Nagy, this performance at the Erkel Theatre starts precisely 60 years after the moment of his death and shows the complex relationship between Imre Nagy, László Rajk and János Kádár. At its centre are the desperate attempts of the lone surviving member of the trio to make the unacceptable defensible to his own self.
On the 60th anniversary of the revolution of 1956, the chamber drama created from the final speech is being staged at the unique venue of the Opera House.
12 April 1989. At the White House (today known as the Parliamentarians' Office Building) on Budapest's Jászai Mari Square, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party is deep in deliberations. The year has already brought a triumph for reformers inside the party with the decision that Hungary would soon announce the holding of free elections, which also brought with it a previously unimaginable confrontation with the dark past. All at once, the unburied dead of 1956 came back to life and went after their executioners.
Haunting the nightmares of the ageing János Kádár with increasing frequency were executed communist leaders Imre Nagy and László Rajk, and all those who had been sent to the scaffold in order to ensure his grip on power. Meanwhile, he had become convinced that he would share the same fate of those he had swept aside. He imagined the scenario just as he had 30, 40 and even 50 years earlier: those newly installed in power would subject him to a show trial, make him a scapegoat, blame him for the crimes of his regime, execute him and seize control.
Isolated and ousted from power, Kádár knew there was only one thing he could rely on: popular opinion inside the party. This is why he decided to publicly address the meeting of the MSZMP's Central Committee and justify himself so that the general opinion of the Party would protect him from a trial and accountability. Kádár fought his way past the security guards, entered the hall, and the flustered presiding chairman gave him the floor. Kádár stepped up to the pulpit and launched into his final speech. He did not, however, mention what his doctor had informed him only a few hours earlier: despite all efforts, his deteriorating mind was already far gone.
As the curtain opened before the hall, the seasoned politician was first unable to speak. Then a monologue that seemed to come from some surreal Shakespearean history ensued before the astonished audience.
Based on Kádár's original speech, this work of drama summons forth the critical scenes from the communist leader's dark past, including Rajk's 1949 hearing, with Imre Nagy also making an appearance on the stage, while archival film and audio recordings allow recent Hungarian history to come to life, as murderers and victims clash once again in order to determine who is a hero and who a traitor.