Russian Case 2010

Elena Kovalskaya on the programme:

This year's programme comprises more than twenty productions, only three of which are large-scale shows. There is a good reason for that. Russian repertory theatre, in contrast to European theatre, has always favoured large-scale work. The Russian actor's theatre of the 19th century and the Soviet-era theatre in the 20th century had great public significance and reflected perfectly the renowned Voltaire comment that "the Nation gathers in the theatre stalls". Nowadays people gathering in the theatre stalls represent anything but the nation. Our society is so divided that theatre cannot be inclusive and thereby concurrently touch varied social segments such as the business community, the declassé intelligentsia, students and the middle class. Theatre cannot deliver the commonality suited to all and sundry. As our proletarian writer Maxim Gorky used to say, each person has “his own truth", and there is no single truth for all. Some time ago artistic experimentation took place on small theatre stages, while big stages were the territory of the mainstream. These days a theatre director has to be immensely brave to direct on a large stage, even when presenting the eternal classics. Three large-scale productions that we want to present to Russian Case guests are "The Threepenny Opera" directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, "Medea" by Kama Ginkas and "Uncle Vanya" by Rimas Tuminas.

"Uncle Vanya" by Tuminas is the best of the Moscow premieres that appeared in the year of celebrating Anton Chekhov’ 150th anniversary. Chekhov is fundamental to the Russian theatre repertory. In Moscow alone until recently there were 80 productions based on Chekhov’s works. Dmitry Krymov’s “Tararabumbia” became the 81st. Krymov, who is well known to the Russian Case guests, works in the genre of a “stage designer’s theatre”. This time he has created a Chekhovian pageant - a parade of Chekhov’s characters and their admirers, of interpretations of various Chekhov’s stories and their parodies, of traditional associations and unexpected images. In short, “Tararabumbia” is some kind of a quintessence of Russian theatre. (Unfortunately, the production could not be scheduled for the RC dates).

The other sixteen performances comprise various chamber pieces that are difficult to classify. Amongst them is the physical theatre production "Antidote"; "The Potudan River" directed by Sergei Zhenovach with subtle stage design; and a new production by Mindaugas Karbauskis, arguably the most talented director from the generation now in their thirties. This master of transcription of prose into the language of theatre adapts the novel, "A Stalemate Lasts But a Moment". In the play "An Old Woman" a Yakut woman Stepanida Borisova reads an absurd story by Daniil Kharms called "An Old Woman". She reads first in Russian then in Yakut, moving from recitation to throat singing. The actress is wrapped into the shape of a stone idol and her voice epitomizes the sound of death itself.

The Russian Case programme also includes two purely ethnographic plays from Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia. One is a puppet show and the other is a Buddhist ritual containing considerable theatricality.

In short, we have collected an abundance of theatre forms which have blossomed on the fringes of the Russian mainstream. But our programme also includes four productions that share a common tendency towards documentary style. "Rabota" is a performance in which the dancers perform amongst elderly women engaged in mundane housework. And there are two modern plays: "Life is Grand", “Pavlik is my God” and "Exhibits". The innovative text of Pavel Pryazhko (“Life is Grand”) and the traditional play by Vyacheslav Durnenkov (“Exhibits”) are heard as if they are recordings of everyday speech, to which the audience responds in recognition of the truth that often is absent in traditional theatre.

“Pavlik is My God” reconsiders the old Soviet myth about the boy who informed against his father to the authorities. The RC programme presents the contemporary chamber opera “Gvidon”, a recent premiere of the theatre “School of Dramatic Art”. The opera interprets Russian folk and sacramental songs.