It may he in Russian, but it will lift you up ‘ and carry you along with its
joys and sorrows, and the presentation of what is universal in this divided world.
EIGHT BITES AT THE CHERRY
Rightly refusing to be intimidated by any cultural or language barriers, over twenty hours of Russian drama are being staged as part of this year’s Mayfest. Claudia Woolgar reports on the welcome return of the Maly, St Petersburg’s world-renowned theatre.
he Maly theatre is a rare jewel in the international theatre scene. Under the expert eye of their Artistic Director, Lev Dodin. the company presents work of such unparalleled quality that Scotland should be the envy of Britain during the company‘s current seven-week UK tour. since only Scottish audiences will get the opportunity to see all eight of its current
Lev Dodin is a man who inspires respect — and long hours. Both for the company and for its audiences. The Devils may check in at nine
the epic stage adaptation of
Abramov‘s novels. Brut/terns and Sisters and Home at another nine. but they are hours of the most extraordinary theatrical experience.
The way Dodin works is quite unlike anything we have here in Britain. On the road with him is not simply a Speech. voice. movement and music professors tour together. constantly building upon the work done back home. What is more. the members of the company are hand—picked by Dodin. and there is unabashed nepotism in the way it works. "l‘he majority of the company are my former pupils] explains Dodin. ‘That way we speak a common theatre language. A language learnt from their youth.‘ What this has enabled Dodin to do. is to build up a company which can be called an ensemble in the truest sense of the word. Working together over many years. the members of the company have developed an honesty and depth about their relationships
company. but a whole school.
through every one of their
performances. In the Maly there may be main roles. but there are no stars.‘
Through this unity. Dodin seeks to achieve an emotional quality which we flounder to attain in the West. 'l am not talking about theatre productions which are staged. or put on. but are born.’ he says. ‘liach time it happens in a different way. The essence is to be able to achieve some live emotion . . . Too often you see theatre in which the emotion belongs to an actor. and not to a human being who is an actor.‘ Just as each day brings fresh emotions. new tensions and joys. so Dodin urges his company to bring this to their work with each new performance.
‘The actor‘s experience actually kills emotions. and substitutes imaginary emotions. divorced from reality.‘ We have all seen performances in which emotions are forced. or clearly have no place in the person‘s soul. no inner truth. Dodin seeks raw emotion. but it is an emotion deeply by experience. particular context. ‘These emotions do not cross the stage naked. It always remains emotion. but it is an enriched emotion. We are always trying to grasp this live feeling in all its contradictions.‘
But how does Dodin tap that in his actors? ‘I wish I knew! lfl knew how. I would work much quicker! But I try to experience the same emotions. In doing so a director tries not to work along rutted ways. only using the things he knows well. but to explore. If you follow this pattern then you bear the truth in an actor. I make an actor hear his own self. and the others. Here there are no definite methods.‘
What appears on stage is a world of work visually
that individual’s culture,
and emotionally all—
10 The List 22 April—5 May I994