Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Theatre boss to stage own funeral

Peter Halasz
Halasz is expected to die within weeks
A renowned Hungarian theatre director with terminal cancer is to lie in state for a week while still alive so he can experience his own funeral.

Peter Halasz, who is also an actor, writer and satirist, is in the final stages of liver cancer, and will begin lying in an open coffin at an art museum in the Hungarian capital Budapest later this week.

"I'm curious how a funeral looks from the other side," Halasz told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"I want to take a look at my friends and listen to the eulogies, and the final farewell.

"The event itself is very simple, but the outcome will I guess be interesting, because people are rarely confronted with the situation - that there is another angle to look at this gathering, at themselves, and at me."

'Something of Dracula'

Halasz is a big name in Hungarian theatre, having been a director since the 1960s - although he spent much of his career in exile in the US, only returning after the Cold War.

He won the Hungarian Film Critics award for Best Actor in 1993 for playing the eponymous French nobleman in The Life of Marquis de Sade.

Still from the film Herminamezo-Szellemjárás
Halasz is known for surreal images in his work
He explained that a major theme in his plays is curiosity, and that this was reflected in his unusual funeral.

"It's just the same thing," he said.

Halasz has borrowed the coffin from a colleague in the theatre, who used it in one of her plays.

He said that while he has informed some people of the funeral - his students and friends for the theatre - someone else had heard about it and reported it on the internet.

"I imagine there will be a huge crowd for two reasons: there were many people that I met, but the main reason is that people are curious," he said.

"There will be something of Dracula coming back." But he added that perhaps people were expecting more action than was actually planned.

The event is to be unstructured, to let people talk about whatever they want.

"It will be informal, but we have a routine - we have the form, the ritual, with funerals," Halasz said.

"But it won't be religious at all."

He added that it would be his "last appearance".

"After it, in a few days or weeks, I will depart," he said.

"I am terminally ill, and by the prediction of doctors the progress [of the cancer] is quite visible. This will be my last appearance."

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