The program of the Brusfest festival, the first documentary theater festival in Russia, has collected what seems to be the best metaphors for deciphering the new pandemic reality. These days are marked by as many as two premieres. On the evening of November 25, students of the Moscow Art Theater School took to the stage with the play “CPR” (“The Fourth Industrial Revolution”). This work formally resembles a sociological study: students interviewed people whose professions are disappearing from the labor market. But before us is the case when dry numbers are much less important than destinies, faces and human tragedies. The second metaphorical discovery will be “Breathing” – the very one that doctors are now restoring in intensive care units all over the world. And the one that was lacking for George Floyd, who said the famous phrase “I can’t breathe.” The premiere of the choreographic production by Dina Hussein, Anna Garafeeva and playwright Anna Semenova-Gants will take place on November 30 at the Museum of Moscow.
However, the main metaphor for theatrical autumn 2020 was found in a rather unexpected place: on the wires and roofs of the metropolis, which suddenly became important details of our conclusion. Eternally free birds are the envy of the prisoners. Artists discovered this subject already at last year’s Istanbul Biennale, when authors from all over the world experimented with bird images. But it was Brusfest that first brought the bird onto the stage. The fate of birds, like the fate of humanity, is quite dramatic. Birds have their battles with evil and even resounding victories: in the 1930s, an armed war broke out in Australia with the emu, from which the latter emerged victorious. However, in a war with humans, birds often lose.
An alternative version of world history, seen with bird’s eyes, was invented by the members of the creative association Theater of Mutual Actions (TVD). The highlight of the Brusfest program – the immersive sound performance “The University of Birds” – was shown in the Boyar Chambers and they promise to remain in the repertoire. “Man is a bird to man” – the slogan proclaims at the entrance. The authors of the play – artists Ksenia Peretrukhina, Shifra Kazhdan and Lesha Lobanov, in collaboration with composers Alexei Syumak, Alexei Nadzharov, singer Olga Vlasova and pianist Natalia Sokolovskaya elegantly formatted the ancient chambers for the needs of birds. Spectators carefully sit down at tiny desks, view pictures by candlelight (they are electric and quite safe), and humbly kneel down to peer into the bird houses. Opera, concert, and liturgy are naturally built into the realities of the bird’s-eye Oxbridge. As in a real university, there is a chapel with an altar of the bird goddess and an art gallery, where Lobanov’s “icons” with the lives of birds of extinct species were found. At the university theater, spectators are shown the world premiere of “The Sparrow’s Opera” about the genocide of the sparrows in China in the 1950s. At the beginning and at the end of this learned “walk-through” performance, viewers meet with talking birdhouses, from where the poems of Marshak and Kharms rush. Starting with “siskin-fawn”, the performance tells about the intricate birdworlds heard by the great bird experts Olivier Messiaen and Alfred Hitchcock.
The “Praktika” theater artists continued the bird theme in the opera “De-ba-rr-ka-de-rr” for the vocal ensemble and dramatic actress. Composer Anna Pospelova wrote it based on the autobiography of the young Petersburg playwright Elina Petrova (directed by Philip Vinogradov). The premiere took place on November 23 at the Voznesensky Center, the performance will become a repertoire one. The schedule of screenings will depend on the employment of the leading role, the star of the film “Dylda” Victoria Miroshnichenko. In the play, she talks about her childhood with the intonations of Baba Yaga. Memories come to the heroine through a chorus of girls in white shrouds, or nightgowns (the costumes are convenient as a screen for transparencies). White girls voiced numerous relatives of the heroine – dad, mom, sister, grandmother and grandfather. The play works on the verge of that dreaming time, where the duration is quite relative. The viewer finds himself immersed in such moments of life that could last for a few seconds. But memory makes them so full of details that a moment can turn into almost an eternity.
However, the authors allotted themselves only 70 minutes to fix eternity. The opera is short and succinct, difficult to listen to, but easy to watch. Miroshnichenko’s benefit performance in the role of a singer is worthy of attention, and contemporary music, especially if it is presented as a document, is always a fascinating experience.
The question is, what does the bird and the landing stage have to do with it? The latter, on the one hand, is a beautiful word that the chorus threateningly repeats, on the other, the place where our childhood is loaded, packed in bundles of memories. Well, and the birds … The heroine’s real dad, as it turns out in the play, was a wonderful bird-catcher who once danced with her mother. The accidental child of accidental love – isn’t the heroine herself a bird? And the spectators, seated in a checkerboard pattern in the small hall of Praktika, are they not birds? In any case, the viewer leaves the theater inspired.