Sally Kinnes on Russian drama.


‘Until recently people were disillusioned with Russian theatre because onihe whole it was uninteresting, unadventurous oriust plain duli' according to Michael Glenny a leading translator oi Russian literature. But the west is lagging behind in how much it knows about this area oi theatre and the extent to which it is changing was recently demonstrated in the much-applauded production oi ‘Cerceau', seen at the London International Festival oi Theatre last month. The version oi HAMLET which is being presented in Edinburgh comes irom a similartype oiiringe company. the Moscow Studio Theatre, who work in the cramped basement ota housing state, where there is no room iora curtain, wings or more than one entry point to the stage tor the actors.

‘Fordecades and decades no new theatre groups have been set up in Russia. Now more or less anyone who can get together a troupe oi actors and can lind a cellar ora boileroom in a block oi ilats in which to perionn can set up a Fringe theatre. They are bursting out all overthe place' says Glenny. According to one Russian reviewerthe character Hamlet ‘challenges the traditional interpretion . .. he does not dither . . . he knows periectly well what to do.‘ Surely one oi the musts on the Festival.

0 Hamlet, Moscow Studio Theatre oi the South West. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3), 226 2427/8, 16-22 Aug. 11 .45am, £4.50 (£4). [Fr]


According to the rules laid down by Stalin natural disasters. and still less man-made disasters just didn't happen in Russia. ‘Until a year ortwo agothe Soviet press just couldn't reportthem' says Michael Glenny. translator oi ViadimirGubaryev‘s play SARCOPNAGUS which deals with Russia's most recent and devastating disaster. the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl and which Russia eventually had no choice but to report, such was the extent oithe radioactive iallout being registered round the world.

Gubaryev. as is well known, is not only a playwright and science correspondent but was also one at the lirst reportersto arrive at Chernobyl. presumably at considerable personal risk.

In Russia the play opened in Tambov, provincial capital oi an agricultural region 500 miles south east oi Moscow. interestingly it has reached London but not Moscow (as tar as is known). ‘Whereas each theatre used to be run as a benevolent dictatorship by its artistic director and a small clique, now they are being democratised by Gorbachev and decisions have to be made bythe whole company-the actors. electricians, carpenters, wardrobe mistress and cleaning ladies, all oi whom have one vote. lts highly democratic but nothing happens because no one can agree about anything.’ At a recent meeting those tor and against including Sarcophagus in the repertoire oi the Moscow Arts Theatre were pretty evenly divided.

Tom McGrath who is organising the reading oi Sarcophagus on the Fringe as part 01 the Lyceum Studio‘s ‘Words Beyond Words’ event despairs oi what he sees as a move towards the past going on internationally in theatre. ‘lt‘s galling watching the classics getting done everywhere and not contemporary work. When the present comes along and stares you in theiace,

we're not capable oi responding to it.’

Any cry to do contemporary plays begs the question oi the purpose oitheatre and it Sarcophagus kicks oil a public discussion Torn McGrath will be well pleased. ‘Thatto me is a lorm oi drama.‘

0 Sarcophagus, Words Beyond Words, Lyceum Studio (Venue 35), 229 9697.25.26.27 Aug, 7pm £3. (£2). [Fr]


It is the proud boast oithe Gorky Theatre oi Leningrad that it was the lirst drama theatre to be established in the new Soviet republic, opening with Schiller's Don Carlos in 1919. It tookthe name 01 the playwright

Gorky in 1932 (Gorky, literally ‘bitter', was the author's pseudonym, a comment on hisioyless childhood during which he knew all the misery oi despairand poverty). Most oi his works were included in the repertoire. Tovstonogov, artistic directorior30 years, has established a secure international reputation tor the company. It excels in productions oi the classics and will present works by Tolstoy and Chekov in Edinburgh. The Tbilisi State

PuppetTheatretrom l Georgiacompletethe

visiting Russian quota to the International Festival as part oi the World Theatre Season.

0 The History ot a Horse 9,10, 15Aug, 7.30pm and Uncle Vanya, 12 S13Aug, 7.30pm both by the Gorky Theatre oi Leningrad, King's Theatre; Alired and Violette, 15 G 21 Aug11am, 17Aug11am & 2.30pm , 23 Aug 11am. 2.30pm & 7.30pm; Autumn olour Springtime, 16, 21 Aug 2.30pm,1BAug11am & 2.30pm and Marshall de Fontier, 16 Aug 7.30pm.19

. Aug.11am 6 2.30pm, and

22 Aug, 11am, Tbilisi State PuppetTheatre, Church Hill Theatre. [EIF]


With a cool nerve. determined will and a weakness tor lovers Catherine the Great wasa iorrnidible and deeply

amibitous empress oi

Russia tor34 years. CATHERINE is the story oi her extraordinary lite, written by herseventh generation grandson and his daughter, who also directs.

0 Catherine, Full Throttle Theatre Company, Calton Studios, (Venue 71). 556 706610-15 Aug,1pm and Epworth Rails, (Venue 63) 17-22 Aug. Checktimes with venue. NB Not in Fringe programme. [Fr]


Another play by Gogol, this time more oi a chamber piece. which dwells on the themes oi greed and duplicity.

o The Gamblers/Electrician. Cast Iron Touring Company, Theatre West End (Venue 126), 24-29 Aug, 8.30pm. [Fri


Imprisoned in Russia tor several years. lrena Ratushlnskaya reportedly even wrote poems on bars oisoap, so determined was she to record herwork. This play based on her Iiie comesirom Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

0 lrena Ratushlnskaya, Oxiord Theatre Group, St

; Mary's Hall (Venue 19). 557 - 4829, 13-23 Aug (not 10, 17)

4.15pm; 17 Aug, 7.15pm, £3. [Fr]


Aiailed suicide and sometime tramp, Gorky was the sell-educated. sell-made Russian literary hero ot the late 19th/early 20th century. His most celebrated novel THE LOWER DEPTRS describes the dosshouse existence he knew all-too well and his bottom-oi-the-heap characters debate their ilerceiy divided philosophies oi the tile with sharp wit and ieellng.

o The Lower Depths. Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49). 225 9893, 8-22 Aug (not Mons). 7.30pm, £2.50 (£2). [Fri


The only contemporary Russian play being periormed in iuii duringthe Festival is TREMEAND VARIATIONS by Samuel Alyoshln, also translated by Michael Glenny. All involved agree its nota particularly Soviet play (though its line, ‘You only have one mother butwives can be changed', albeit written as an indictment oi Soviet society, is likelyto raise a law eyebrows). “The story is oi an eternal triangle situation and I see them as three lost souls in the middle oi nowhere' says director Charles Nowosieiski. ‘l thinkthey need God - but then Ithink the whole oi the Soviet Union needs God.’

0 Theme and Variations, Gilded Balloon Theatre at. Studio, (Venue 3B), 226 2151 . 7-30 Aug, 3pm. £3.50 (£3). [Fri


Though tragically killed in a duel, arguably contrived by his political enemies, Pushkin had hardly led the quiet slow-buming iile oi the passive contormlst. lie was closely linked with those involved in the Decembrist 'conspiracy’ oi 1825, spent much oi his tile in exile and the Tsar became his sell-appointed censor when he returned to Moscow.

‘Re was so unusual, he lust doesn’t lit in -that's what attracted me' says director Faynla Williams, who together with her writer/actor husband Richard Williams already has a string oi Fringe Firsts to her credit. ‘Its very modern in ieel and It'll be terribly simple - no props. three actors. one set. one colour (white).’ Pushkin had a premonition he would be killed by a man in white and there was thick deep snow when they iought the duel. Shot in the stomach he must have bled dramatically Into

the snow. ‘Yes‘ agrees Faynla Williams ‘and though he shot his opponent he was saved by a brass button on his coat- it'siuil ol dramatic stuti, you don't have to push it.‘

o Pushkin, Crane/Williams Red Rose Theatre (Venue 80). 556 4386, 10-15Aug, 12.35pm, £3 (£2.50). [Fr]


Bureaucracy and corruption are mercilessly sent up by Gogol in his comic indictment oi 19th century oiiiciaidom.

o The Government Inspector. The Department, St Cuthbert's Rail (Tic Toc 4), (Venue 50),10-22 Aug (not Suns), 2.30pm, £2.50 (£2). [Fl


All proceeds irom this last, iunny show will go towards helping a young avant garde theatre/rock group. Avia. in Leningrad who work in a similar style toihe company.

0 A Way with Movement, Paris Touring Company, Theatre A.C.T. (Venue 101), 5571785. 9-22 Aug (not 17).10.40am. £3. Free coiiee and croissant! [Fr]


Niiinksy's extraordinary lite which iinaliy disintegrated into schizophrenia is dramatised irom his diairiesiorthe lirsttime and presented in a one-man play.

0 A Clown oi God, Basicks, Riddles Court (Venue 11), 225 8961,10-29 Aug (not suns), 5.15pm, £2.50 (£1.50). [Fr] .. t. A

a (


Set amongst a black and white triptych oi screens inspired by expressionist prints, this is a theatrical parable oi Dostoevsky’s over-intellectual urban man, divorced lrom labour and ieellng. The play careiully integrates ionn with ideas as it abruptly changes mode during the action In orderto illicit diiierent responses irorn Its audience.

0 Notes irom Underground. Oxiord Speakeasy Productions, Caiton Studios (Tic Toc 5 G 6). (Venue 71 ). 556 7066. 16-29 Aug, 12.45pm, £2.50 (£2) [Fr]

The List 7 20 August 13