THE IDIOTTheatre of Nations, Moscow
Участник программы «Russian Case» Фестиваля 2016 и 2019 года
Age category 18+
Maxim Didenko is a director who has taken a fancy to the aesthetics of Soviet avant-garde and who is working in the rare genre of visual theatre. Always unexpected stage design, extremely complicated video mapping, nearly circuslike tricks and aggressive clownery. If you are into brave interpretation and radical experiments, the new Theatre of Nations hit is a must for you to see.
The main amusement in the show (and its main adornment) – is, of course, Ingeborga Dapkunaite. The actress fearlessly gets into the character of Myshkin, a dumb little fellow in Chaplin’s bowler hat. She minces, nods with her head like a Chinese bobblehead, squeaks piteously. Her prince is a meagre little beast who has found itself in a frightening country. An unexpected, yet a very precise treatment of the character.
Pavel Semchenko’s work, the production designer (one of the founders of the famous AKHE Engineering Theatre) deserves a separate article. The audience is watching an attraction, is trying to make out a masterful puzzle and an animated installation. In one of the scenes, right in front of the audience - gigantic Rogozhin’s eyes quite literally start walking around (actors put on huge hats). A brilliant metaphor has been found for the image of Motherland – children’s wooden hobbyhorses (placed upstage) which Myshkin and Rogozhin use to come back home. And the house with windows and doors in the form of coffin covers.
The most incredible fact is that the form in the show does not override the content of the novel, and irony does not kill philosophy. The funny turns into the frightening, a clown’s personal tragedy turns into the tragedy of society. In the final scene Myshkin completely loses his mind. So clownery is clownery, yet Didenko follows Dostoevsky in stating that the pure and the kind cannot survive in this country.
Although there are twenty characters in the stage version of the novel IDIOT, in the Theatre of Nations production only four actors are involved. Ingeborga Dapkunaite plays Prince Myshkin. According to director Maxim Didenko, “in the world, among other things, two things have been lost: the culture of clownery and the capacity to perceive Dostoevsky as a vivid, ironic man”. So IDIOT is performed in the aesthetics of “noir clownery”. The scenic space is organized by the maitre of complex media installations Pavel Semchenko of AKHE Engineering Theatre.
The Small Stage of the Theatre of Nations is a venue for experimentation. Young directors explore it audaciously and boldly, at times opening new angles in familiar pieces. Director Maxim Didenko, already well-known for a few vigorous productions in Moscow and St. Petersburg theatres took IDIOT by Dostoevsky in hand and turned this canonical piece into noir clownery. And black clown humour mixed with extreme events described in the novel, has produced some unusual results.
Action rushes from one place to another, like in restless dreams. The set turns around its own axis – one moment it is a railway station, then suddenly a room, a park, a cemetery… Pavel Semchenko’s stage design (he is well-known for his work at the AKHE Engineering Theatre) is full of subtle allusions, saturated with images – video projections, animated installations go over real objects. Ghostly clowns pump up the fear and thrill of gothic novels, disturb the audience with fluid eroticism of Russian decadence, strike it dumb with the electric expression of German avant-gardists… Rogozhin incinerates everything that he looks at, and his eyes come out of their orbits. Gigantic green eyes start walking in the dark of the stage on their own (an extravagant conglomerate of Dali’s surrealism and Gogol’s phantasmagoria).
Such a radical treatment of classics is a risky and dangerous deed. But the production has all the chances to avoid the attacks of school textbook strict followers. If you read the novel carefully, you understand quite clearly that it was Fyodor Mikhailovich himself who gave a motive for merciless clownery. Everything in his novel is excessive and extreme – events, conflicts, characters, contrasts… And the frightening tragicomic duet of the read and white clown begins in Dostoevsky’s novel during the very first meeting of impudent Rogozhin and meek Myshkin.