BIRGIT BEUMERS about Russian Case

BIRGIT BEUMERS, a theatre critic, researcher, University of Bristol, Department of Russian Studies, UK

The Russian Case has, for ten years now, offered a unique opportunity for foreigners to get acquainted with new developments in Russian theatre. The curators have always made an admirable effort to show projects that are of interest for researchers, festival organisers and practitioners alike, although there have certainly been times when, as somebody who has been studying Russia theatre for over twenty years, I would have struggled to find worthy shows – certainly in recent years with an ever-increasing tendency to commercialise almost all aspects of theatre.

As a researcher I have found innumerable useful contacts at the Russian Case – and this is maybe the most valuable, if not most obvious and direct aspect of such a venture. Meetings with actors, directors, critics – organised on a formal and informal level – have widened my knowledge of contemporary Russian theatre.

Russian theatre is a field that is, in my view, under-studied; this is for the very reason that makes theatre so attractive for me: its ephemeral nature and the impossibility to capture fully a performance on a medium that would make it accessible for future generations (as can be done with other art forms, especially in the digital age). It is the immediacy with which it speaks that makes it at the same time one of the most vulnerable and fragile forms of artistic creation in the 21st century that subjects almost everything to digitisation. And Russian Case makes possible that immediate contact with performing arts.

During the ten years I have had the pleasure and honour of attending the Russian Case, I have developed a number of projects and written about Russian theatre. Before attending Russian Case I had written a book on the Taganka Theatre as well as several articles on post-war Russian theatre. More recently I have written a book on popular culture which includes a large section on performing arts, much inspired by the Russian Case, but not only. I have contributed several entries on contemporary Russian theatre to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance and written several articles for scholarly, academic journals, as well as four articles for the Petersburg Theatre Journal. Most important, though, with support from the Leverhulme fund I was able to collaborate with Mark Lipovetsky on representations of violence in new drama and theatre in Russia; our book is due to appear later in 2009. The performances shown at the Russian Case, but also many of the discussions and seminars have been invaluable in preparing this publication.

Congratulations to Russian Case’s tenth anniversary, and may it have many more round birthdays!