The theater from Vorkuta showed in Moscow trash based on the story of Chingiz Aitmatov

by time news

The Vorkuta Drama Theater is not an ordinary guest performer. It is special on the theatrical map of the country not only for its geographical location (located beyond the Arctic Circle), but above all for its very tragic, and therefore heroic fate. Because it was built and created in it by people whose fates were broken by the Stalinist regime. The directors, actors, dancers exiled to the Vorkuta camps in the 1930s first organized an amateur art circle there – in order to survive, so as not to lose their profession. And in August 1943, an order was already signed to create the first theater in Varkuta, a troupe of 23 people was approved and funds in the amount of 283 thousand rubles were allocated.

The camp theater was headed by Boris Mordvinov, former chief director of the Bolshoi Theater, professor at the Moscow Conservatory, who once worked with Nemirovich-Danchenko. By all accounts, an honored man, but whose fate in 1940 changed abruptly: he was arrested, sentenced to three years of forced labor on charges (attention!) Of espionage with the wife of a prominent Soviet military leader. Expelled from Moscow, deprived of all rights, in one of the Varkuta camps, he becomes a loader, an auxiliary worker, an orderly in a barrack. It’s good that they didn’t send them to the mine. Among the fellow prisoners of Mordvinov are musicians, artists, screenwriters, including the famous ones – Kotlyar, Galinskaya, Kapler, Bendel.

And on October 1, 1943, in the wooden club, they showed their first premiere – not a tragedy or a drama that more than anything corresponded to the place, time and collective misfortune, but … the operetta “Silva” by Imre Kalman. In 2018, the Vorkuta drama celebrated its 75th anniversary. He has a serious troupe, his own premises in the city center. And since 2019, the theater has been named after its first artistic director, Boris Mordvinov. This is the kind of theater that came on tour to Moscow, where its creator was not allowed for a long time even after his release. But where did he get to in 1953 and where, alas, a few hours after his arrival he died of a heart attack in his own apartment. Such a terrible fate.

So, the play, “Piebald Dog Running at the Edge of the Sea.” The story of Chingiz Aitmatov, which describes the life of the Nivkhs, a small people of the North, is poetic and terrible, beautiful and cruel. And like all unimaginably beautiful centuries-old legends, legends have a downside of pain and sorrow.

The content of the story is well known – already a classic, moreover, supported by a cinematic version (1990 film, director Karen Gevorkyan). The 11-year-old boy Kirisk, wide open to the world, will go to sea for the first time together with the elder of the Organ clan, his father Emrayin and his father’s cousin Mylgun. For a boy, this is essentially an initiation rite. The hunters will successfully get to the seals’ rookery, kill one of these large fish, and immediately eat its liver, because nothing warms up on a long journey like the liver of a seal. But on the way to the neighboring island, where they intend to spend the night, they will first fall into a storm, miraculously survive, and then completely lose their course. A blind fog, like a huge living creature, will surround their pitiful boat from all sides, not wanting to let go of its human prey. Strength and fresh water are running out and, in order to save the boy, three adult and courageous men will decide to die, in turn throwing themselves out of the boat. The boy Kirisk alone swims to the shore in exhaustion and grows up sharply. Trash.

Absolute thrash will have a more than restrained, harsh stage embodiment and will begin even with an empty stage with a female scream “behind the scenes”. It’s not even people crying out of grief – they’re uterinely and scary, not wounded animals that howl as they die. Probably, this is how the spirits that live underground, under water, in crevices of rocks, in pitch darkness cry. With such an “overture” as a harbinger of trouble, director Zaikauskas will set the main theme of the performance – a world parallel to the real, unknown and frightening, the world of spirits and elements. The impotence of a person in front of him, who continues to test himself for centuries in search of food with his strength and power. And also the sacrifices that he makes to him, fighting, fearing and worshiping. The heartbreaking cry will be repeated four times, until at some point the camera displays women – one by one – with long flowing hair parted in the middle and in stylized national clothes of the peoples of the North. They will cry out as if in an ancient rite. The poetic language of Chengiz Aitmatov’s story, full of metaphors, will not give the viewer a chance to stay in the real world.

– Where are you swimming, fish woman? Your hot womb is the best place in the world.

– This is from an ancient legend about the very Fish-woman who founded a clan with a man who fell in love with her a long time ago.

After 15 minutes from the beginning, a red-haired woman in a deaf black suit, in which puppeteers usually work behind a screen, will rise from the first row and ask for light into the hall. Further remaining on the front row, the actress will lead the text from the author, accompanying the dangerous journey of the brave four in a boat. And in almost three hours of action, a couple of times will connect to it interactive with the viewer, cute and naive. He will ask them, for example, to turn on the flashlights on their gadgets in the dark – so that the hunters can see the eternity of the starry sky above them.

Paradoxically, the minimalism chosen by the director Zaikauskas as a style emphasizes and manifests the epic character of his performance. For the entire decoration, only one boat works here, more reminiscent of the skeleton of an ancient fish, rather than a means of transportation on water. The waves, in which the canoe beats, here are the canvases in the hands of the assemblers. And they manipulate them so cleverly that the fabric waves at some point merge with the screen waves, which looks very impressive. Natural water is poured right on the stage only in the most tragic moments, when one by one the harsh men of the clan, for the sake of someone else’s life, voluntarily abandon their own.

The director works competently with the camera, screen and film material. A fragment from the 1990 film in the first part of the play will sound in the second already on stage (Kirisk’s bloody mouth from a fish liver). And the online camera will display a close-up of the actors who honestly work in the school of experience. Simply, authentically and sincerely, without unnecessary pathos present in the text – Nikolai Anikin (old Organ), Evgeny Kanatov (father Kirisk), Anatoly Zhukov (uncle Kirisk) and finally Gulnur Khamatnurova as a desperate 11-year-old boy. The audience appreciated – for a long time the vorkutians did not let go, some women wipe their tears.

After the performance, the director Linas Zaykauskas says that this is his second production at the Vorkuta theater (the first – “The Marriage” by Gogol was called “The Grooms”). “Skewbald Dog Running by the Edge of the Sea” was made for the 100th anniversary of the Komi Republic, the premiere took place three weeks before the show in Moscow.

– Linas, I, for example, believe that theaters, their walls are saturated with their own history. Working at the Vorkuta Theater, did you somehow feel the echoes of the tragedies of the prisoner artists?

– Yes, the history of both the theater and the city is terrible. But I came to stage my first performance in Vorkuta only because I wanted to see the places where my father had been sitting for several years in one of the camps that appeared here before the city itself. He understood that in the inhuman working conditions in the mines, he, in the literal sense of the word, would die. He even made an attempt to cut off his legs so as not to go down into the mines and, being a disabled goner, try to somehow live out his life “on top”. Thank God that the attempt was not successful: the conveyor belt on which he jumped threw him off, and did not cut off his legs, as his father expected. The other prisoners did not allow him to throw himself a second time.

– In general, I was sure that the city should live the terrible history of the camps, remember its tragedies, the musical and dramatic theater, which appeared to entertain the wives of the chiefs of the camps. In a word, I thought I would see something similar to those terrible death museums that exist in Auschwitz, Majdanek, Buchenwald … Well, if it’s not so monumental, I thought that there would be at least some place, the conditional Golgotha, which I saw in Norilsk. But … I was wrong. The city does not live by THIS history at all. Officially, he lives with the history of the glorious Five-Years, the exploits of miners, and not officially – very many people do not give a damn about any story, it does not own their thoughts. The city is busy with the problem of survival – it simply “dies”. And people, like everywhere else, want to be happy, want to be successful.

– Why did you choose the minimalist style for the production? Concept or for financial reasons?

– I’ve always loved minimalism. All my performances, especially the scenography, are minimalistic. For me, the main thing in the theater is the actor, and I like it when the scenery does not become a “mausoleum” for him. When the viewer is focused on the “living” actor, and not on the “architecture”. Well, most of the directors of the theaters where I worked really like my addiction to scenographic minimalism, they know that Zaykauskas’s performances are not financially expensive. But I am a perfectionist and I like to do everything “as for myself” and try to achieve practically impossible things from other people who are involved in performances in my performances.

– You worked with actors at school, according to Stanislavsky, which the European theater does, rather, a theoretical respect.

– In “Pied Dog” a wonderful literary, poetic, pretentious, but not at all dramatic language creates a pretentious and poetic atmosphere. A story, but not a performance. And the only way not to get into a situation where it is already sickening from “sweetness” and pathos is to make the actors play realistically, even naturalistically, according to Stanislavsky’s system. More precisely, try to live on stage, think, solve problems, and not play, portray states and feelings.

– You work a lot in Lithuania, in theaters in Europe. But under the current conditions it turned out to be possible for you only in Russia.

– The pandemic and a complete lockdown in the European Union and America have hit hard not only on theaters, but also on all cultural life. Everything was closed for almost a year and a half. No performances, concerts, exhibitions, etc. Freelancers especially suffered, for a year and a half they had no sources of income – this is a tragedy in the literal sense of the word. Actors and directors, singers and musicians, artists came up with something in ZUM, but this is not a theater. It’s not even “not from a good life,” but from a terrible life. An attempt not to die … Only now, little by little, art and culture in Europe is beginning to show signs of life.


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