stage director

Berlin Gogol

Belorusskaja Gaseta, 07.02.05

 THEATER with Andrej KUREJTSCHIK

 Theater: Filmschauspieler-Studiotheater, Projekt by Anatolij Kot and Monika Dobrowlanska (Berlin)

 Staging: Nikolai Gogol, „Diary of a Madman“

 Direction: Monika Dobrowlanska

What’s this? Manfred Linke, a famous German critic, the head of European Forum of Young Theatre Workers, wrote about a sensational performance on Berlin stage, the performance which we owe to a Belarusian actor, a performance which seemed to be fantasy. Berlin, the Mecca of the European theatres, the unconquered citadel and  city which concentrates the theatres with the most avant-garde and finest repertoires (which could happen either in London or New York), the theatrical place which can pride itself on the most demanding audience and the severest critics. And it was here that a German director of Polish origin, decided to turn a Russian classical short story by Nikolai Gogol into a spectacle.

As usual, the Belarusians have first taken no notice of their compatriots’ unprecedented achievement and, unlike other European countries, it was the Goethe-Institute rather than native Belarusian Culture Institutions, that cared about the promotion of a spectacle in which the actor, Kot starred. The Goethe-Institute made an unsuccessful attempt to invite „Diary of a Madman“ to “Panorama-Festival”. Still, The Ministry of Culture found the spectacle unwelcomed on Festival Program. In the end, officials put some mercy before justice and gave their permission to show „Diary of a Madman“ on  Filmschauspieler-Theater  stage as well as in Witebsk.

Dramaturgy.  Die short story „Diary of a Madman“ could be equally the first real journey to the depth of a suffering psyche in the world literature, a journey reported in the first person narrative. While depicting his character’s schizophrenic illusion Gogol is so adequate, precise and truthful that future psychiatrists could take lessons based on his descriptions.

What makes the whole story even more interesting is the fact that Gogol did not write about an abstract madness, in a very convincing way Gogol presented megalomania whose elements as well as people suffering from it are so visible in everyday life. We consider Gogol to be a classical author whose language reflects the 19th century poetic form. Still, in German translations Gogol is a contemporary artist who tells his present story about a  Russian immigrant who has lost his mind in a German office.

Direction: Monika Dobrowlanska is already well-known to the Minsk audience. Her small production by Pawel Prjaschko’s work presented as a part of on-line project was assessed to be the best one. The director chose the same time for the „Diary of a Madman“ action as Gogol himself  i.e. April 2000. The action takes place in Germany. The main character is a Russian immigrant who, slowly but definitely,  loses his mind because of absolute bureaucracy. A mean, small official, who perceives himself to be the King of Spain, who is completely soaked with his crazy fantasies about being great and magnificent, reveals a generalized stereotype embodying a dictator.  The quest for power,  the certainty related to being the chosen one, categorical statements to any questions related to domestic or foreign politics, boorishness and selfishness – these forms of megalomania are described by Gogol.

Exactly this part of the performance stroke a chord with the Belarusian audience. Even though the director and the actors managed to avoid too direct political contexts, the effect of recognition was obvious. In this sense the German language with its expression and rough native nature contributes to making this effect. The performance gained an unusual intonation due to the huge video projection: the subtitles of Gogol’s text, next the photos of today’s Moscow, even the monologues spoken by Kot himself were displayed in the background.

Advantages: Today Anatolij Kot is probably the only actor in this country able to play a great one-actor-production. He knows how to change himself in a masterful manner,  how to manage the pace and rhythm, how to move and joke. In an outstanding way he can “sense” the audience, his self-image can change from good-natured and charming to brutal and demonic. What results is a wonderful cocktail – the German sense of presence and current matters multiplied by Gogol’s mystic and Slavic art of acting.

Disadvantages.  The play could be presented in future, and needless to say, there should be more performances than one only. Still the German roughness can hardly meet the requirements of the supporters of classical theatre interpretation.

 

 

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