Театральная компания ЗМ


30 апреля 2015

European Theatre Context

Dagmar Podmaková | Slovenské Divadlo (The Slovak Theatre)

…In Russian theatre, the changing of the generations of theatre makers takes place. A need to respond to what is currently happening and the quest for a new synthetic theatre expression, or, conversely, the comeback of the poor theatre with minimum props, is in the centre of their attention. We are the witnesses of a boom of renowned festivals, such as Baltiyskiy Dom in St. Petersburg, Realny Teatr (Real Theatre) in Yekaterinburg, Prostranstvo Rezhissuri (Space of Directing) in Perm and others. However, among theatre festivals of international renown is The Golden Mask Festival held in Moscow. It is an all-Russian theatre festival/competition. Its programme is scheduled for three months, from February to April, and includes drama, puppet and music theatrical performances. For instance, the co-called main competition programme of the 21st edition was composed of fifty four productions. The non-competition programme entitled Maska Plus with a brief characteristics “New names – small towns, ethnic theatre, here and now” numbered thirty productions. An art group by the name of Med a prach (Honey and Dust) from Bratislava was included among “ethnic theatre” productions, with its production Home Eros Faith. Component parts of Golden Mask are also projects Children’s Weekend and CONTEXT – current foreign productions. For example, the contemporary production of Tartuffe directed by Michael Thalheimer at Berlin´s Schaubühne theatre was staged with NET festival (Novyi evropeiski teatr – New European Theatre) in November 2014. The majority of foreign ensembles from advanced theatrical cultures come to Moscow on the invitation of organisers, following a selection by a committee of experts. The committee is composed of acclaimed Russian critics and theatre scientists. The costs associated with the guest performances of the ensembles outside the Russian Federation which participate in the Golden Mask Festival are covered from the budgets under concrete cultural agreements, such as, for instance, from the budget for the Year of Italian or Polish culture.

In addition, Golden Mask runs a special programme, the so-called Russian Case. It is a selection of the most interesting productions from all over the Russian Federation, with special focus on foreign participants from literally all over the world (typically, there would be around 70 foreign guests invited). The Russian organisers will directly approach picked theatre critics, festival directors, on the basis of reciprocity, translators from and to Russian, experts on Russian theatre. Morning panel discussions on future tendencies, various theatre forms, the role of politics in theatre, the intervention of politics in theatre, the latest trends in individual national theatrical cultures are especially engaging.
To give an example, in 2014, the curator and the members of the selection committee discussed the problems with The Karamazovs (Imaginations of Director Konstantin Bogomolov, based on the novel by F. Dostoyevsky), staged by Konstanin Bogomolov at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre. They said that two days before the premiere, the director had informed on Facebook about withdrawing from collaboration on the performance on the grounds of an excessive number of modifications requested by the theatre management. In parallel, he informed of leaving the Moscow Art Theatre altogether. The few lines caused an uproar not only among the theatre makers but also in the media. The information provoked numerous contradictory comments and gave rise to “reliable” information. Eventually, the production of The Karamazovs was premiered.

The theatrical performance that ran for almost five hours divided the audience into two camps: one, excited over the image of contemporary world in Bogomolov’s interpretation, while the other group rejected such a world. It is imperative for the viewer to be familiar with the original, otherwise deconstructed text is extremely difficult to follow. The text is re-written, new lines and texts from other works by Dostoyevsky are added. Some male characters are rendered by female actors, while some characters are played only by a single actor. The first and the second acts give an impression of a long exposition. In a great number of scenes the characters would be quietly standing or sitting. Or they would be gossiping away, or, they would be engrossed in a monologue, strictly in the spirit of meditative psychoanalysis. Nikolai Berman wrote that through them, “the director offers a model analysis of The Brothers Karamazov, he develops perfect narrative lines and fine-tunes psychological subtleties, while working with the actors’ intonation so as to give a natural and yet, deeply emotional, impression.”

The Karamazovs by Bogomolov is a satirical narration not just about the Russian way of life but about life per se. It is a mocking image of modern times, through which the director poses indirect questions about the purpose of life, hypocricy, ethics, cheating, homicide and many others. Indirectly, he parodises Dostoyevsky, as the production is neither about Church nor the State. It mocks playing the good, sincerity, as the world is overwhelmed by violence, hatred and all kind of nonsensical sacrifice. Faith, Jesus and the gospel of love are not points of departure for Bogomolov. He admitted that in this production “he was not interested in philosophical and religious quest”. He underscored that “if you make theatre, you cannot not talk about the present times”. The basis of the scenery is a room in a crematorium, in which additional space is gradually set up. A component part of the plot is also the shooting the TV episode Faith, Hope and Love by a Scottish TV channel. Throughout the performance, these shots and the close-ups of actors’ faces are projected on three large screens, together with the director’s comments on the meaning of the text and character impersonation. The graves of the characters in The Karamazovs are flush bowls as a memento of filth in which mankind is submerged. One can get rid of it but it leaves behind lingering bad odour. The Karamazovs are still listed in the repertoire of Moscow Art Theatre. Several months after its premiere, Konstantin Bogomolov left the theatre and joined Lenkom Theatre.

Considering the response in the media, it might appear that new trends in Russian theatre divide both critics and the audience. This, however, is not so. The audience and professional public are very much interested in documentary drama projects. A good example of that would be the projects that relate to past historical events A Life for the Tsar, Teatro Di Capua, St. Petersburg) based on the documents of the Russian revolutionary organisation Narodnaya Volya); to the recent past Vyatlag, Kirov Drama Laboratory and Teatr.doc (reading from a Gulag labour camp diary). The best known Teatr.doc also addresses other themes that relate to political issues, such as the public discourse on prison reforms in November 2015. Indirectly, theatre makers picked up on an older project implemented nationally and abroad, on the imprisonment and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky (One Hour Eighteen, based on letters and official documents). Teatr.doc is a multiple Golden Mask laureate. Regardless of that, the theatre is not spared problems due to staging documentary-style plays with politically sensitive themes…

(This is an abstract from Dagmar Podmaková`s article in SLOVENSKÉ DIVADLO. You will find a full version at http://www.sav.sk/journals/uploads/01221511SD0X-2015-22.pdf)

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