SHOOT/GET TREASURE/REPEATTheatre POST, St. Petersburg
Эксперимент / спектакль
Directors – Dmitry Volkostrelov, Semen Aleksandrovskiy with the participation of Alexander Vartanov
Producers – Anastasia Matisova, Dmitry Renansky, Dmitry Korobkov
Participants in the project: Semen Aleksandrovskiy, Alyona Bondarchuk, Alexander Vartanov, Anton Vasiliev, Dmitry Volkostrelov, Ivan Gayev, Konstantin Galdayev, Ilya Del. Daria Yekamasova, Anastasia Zabirova, Maria Zimina, Vsevolod Kaptur, Danila Kozlovsky, Artyom Korobkov, Anna Litomina, Sergei Makeyev, Irshula Malka, Alexei Maslodudov, Anastasia Matisova, Marianna Mokshina-Bychkovskaya, Ivan Nikolayev, Alexander Notkin, Dmitry Renansky, Irina Salikova, Natalia Sapetskaya, Igor Sergeyev, Tatiana Smirnova, Alyona Starostina, Alexander Userdin, Uliana Fomicheva, Pavel Chinarev, Xenia Chinareva, Dinara Yankovskaya
Duration – 6 h
Age restriction – 18+
Shoot/ Get Treasure/ Repeat is a radical experiment carried out by two most famous Russian directors, Dmitry Volkostrelov and Semen Alexandrovsky. They chose to present it in the form of a “museum tour”. The display is limited to several non-overlapping spaces with a “presentation” of another short piece from Ravenhill’s polysynthetic play at a certain time. Every time the text is presented in a new theatrical dimension – as a broadcast play which can be heard from the headphones, as a psychological duet at a plain table, as a video monologue by an actor who isn’t engaged live, as creeping lines on the screen and so on. The directors’ imagination and the actors’ courage are boundless, yet they are strictly conceptualized as it often happens with objects of modern art. Nevertheless the production which runs for several hours and offers the audience two possible scenarios of covering all the art objects, is no doubt theatrical. It undergoes simple and complex reactions with the audience, awaking different feelings – from the desire to share the civil pathos of the production inspired by 09/11 tragic events, to understanding the value of personal experience which is the best way to measure the experiment staged by Theatre POST from St. Petersburg.
The text is rather heavy subject-wise, but formally it is perfectly comprehensible: it is an idle talk between ordinary people with unmistakably Anglo-Saxon names Helen, Thomas and Harry. They talk about terrorists, real estate prices, cruel death and fresh juice. Ravenhill’s metaphors are indisputable and unambiguous like a head-on attack: love as totalitarian violence, war as violent sex, death as a fairy tale. However the subject of the conversation is contained in the text written on commission of Edinburgh Festival and dealing with the conflict of civilizations.
The directors deny any possibility of reinterpreting the text, of processing it by boiling or frying. The audience is offered to be contended with semi-finished products. There are no people in Ravenhill’s plays like there are no figures in Bacon’s paintings, like there are no solo parts in the sound compositions by John Cage. The modern theatre, just like all modern arts, deals not with stories but with ideas. Actors appear as museum attendants and the text is subjected by them to be judged by the audience. Dmitry Volkostrelov and Semen Aleksandrovskiy come up with a unique form of forced freedom. Instead of lolling in the chair with playbill in hand the viewer is forced to wander up and down the loft. Democracy is the eternal question and the eternal choice that drives crazy those who try to find their bearings right away. One of the characters in Ravenhill’s play is a soldier unable to make choice without an order, so he first kills his victim and then himself, yelling “Democracy! I hate you!” The production of “Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat” brings along the absolute and scaring democracy to the totalitarian Russian theatre that seems to perfectly mirror the present-day Russian society. No one is ever prepared to be faced with such a democracy. But it’s the best thing that can be offered to audiences today.
The staging is replaced by the series of installation. The show consists of 16 parts an in effect becomes an exhibition of theatrical ideas. Volkostrelov and Aleksandrovskiy call into question keystone of the theatrical system that sprang up early last century: they call into question the notion of director’s interpretation. They deny their and their actors’ right to mediate between the text and the audience. They replace the visualization of the play by its final mixing that borders on simple read-through that carries no additional meanings. They want to be transpersonal and objective. They try to find a separate clue to each of Ravenhill’s play and more often than not this clue has little if anything to do with the subject or meaning of the play. The directors are playing with the form and explore the methods of non-specific rendering of the text.
Ravenhill explores the nature of mutual hate between whites and blacks, Christians and Moslems, barbarians and citizens of “the civilized society”. The key driving forces of the plays are pain, violence and bigotry that are once in a while flavored with the barely perceptible desire to love. Ravenhill speaks about the breakout of the new Great War between civilizations that threatens to be the most catastrophic and predictably the last one. The conflict between the two worlds is a priori insoluble. The repeatedly pronounced words “democracy” and “freedom” are permeated with false affectation. The executioners and the victims swap positions so rapidly that it becomes impossible to draw any distinction between them. Each play gets a title that relates them to the greatest works that shaped the world culture. There are motifs from “The War and Peace”, “Crime and Punishment”, Euripides’ “The Trojan Women”, “The Odyssey” and “Death of Gods”.
However it is not about either reiteration of the well-known subjects or direct allusions. For Ravenhill it is important to indicate the similarity between the present day and the distant past, between the future war and those that ended 50, 100, 200, 2,000 years ago.
On the face of it it seems that Volkostrelov’s theatre shuns such epical scales. But he quite miraculously finds contact points with Ravenhill. The plays of the cycle abounding in philosophizing, disorderly monologues and meticulous stage directions look either excessively abstract and short of action, or, on the contrary, calling for so sophisticated visualization that seems impossible to be achieved on stage. In this situation Volkostrelov’s anti-theatrical method seems to come in very handy: instead of trying to materialize the playwright’s most intricate fantasies or to find scenic equivalents thereof the director offers a rather dry dialogue that paradoxically conveys the power of the unspoken text. Ravenhill’s characters are passionate, impetuous and brutal but when their lines are spoken evenly, calmly and detachedly they can no longer evoke strong emotions. Volkostrelov gives no opportunity to empathize with the characters or somehow explain them as he accentuates solely the text and the meaning that are born out of combinations of words.