stage director

Craziness as the way to reach the state of consciousness

Nastaunitzkaja Haseta , 17.02.2005, S.4

Minsk presented „Diary of a madman“ by N.W.Gogol  on its stage

 The subject brought up by Gogol in his „Diary of a Madman” is very fashionable. Today only few theaters are not interested in it.  A director, Monika Dobrowlańska paid  tribute to Russian classical literature  on stage of  Minsk Filmschauspieler-Studiotheater, she invited  Anatolij Kot, a Belarusian actor, to appear in  her  one-actor performance. The actor’s task was not limited  to  present  a Russian immigrant in Berlin, it was much more complex, he should act  a  lonely man surrounded by crowds of people. During his recent  interview given for “Lad” TV station,  W. Stjopkin, the director of Philosophy Institute at Russian Science University, mentioned that the today’s  mankind has  fallen into an anthropogenic crisis. The crisis refers to  the fact that currently  the process of people loss, in any  sense this expression  alludes to, proceeds. This phenomenon  was  shown in  the new theatre production.

Paradoxically, the process of getting into madness refers to the process of making Popriščin conscious and  humane. “During this process he subjectively gets out of seemingly hopeless situations of being non-human” says the performance program. Even though it is said, it is not explained how to act such a role, and what is more, how to act it in an up-to-date manner? The performance director and the author Monika Dobrowlańska made a rough, precisely structured performance in the European style; her performance consists of individual structural items, modules, where the process of common sense loss is examined long and thoroughly  until it reaches the peak when Popriščin, being in love with the general’s daughter, imagines himself being the king of Spain. His magnificent golden king’s robe made of golden plastic foil drags along the whole stage as if a tail, it rustles gently and turns into an Alaska jacket. The loss of common sense occurs in an office packed with pieces of furniture. The main character  paces busily between two tables, on one of which there is a computer, a window, door and a huge cinema screen. It is interesting to observe how originally Monika Dobrowlańska takes advantage of double space on stage. On one hand tiny, miserable Popriščin, forced into the corner, on the other the one-dimensional megacity community, resembling ant communities,  where everybody is in a hurry, where people pass next to each other and begin to exist independently from each other, and in the same time on the video screen the audience can see the crowded Moscow tube. The drama of an individual, called Popriščin, unnoticed and unknown,  becomes a tragedy of today’s man who is completely lost even though being with other people, a tragedy of an imprisoned inhabitant of a deserted island. People get surprised at the thought that today one does not look in his interlocutor’s eyes any more, that one cannot sense the soul, that one does not have any feelings for person’s suffering. Then  Popriščin, who presents himself on stage in such an expressive and ambitious manner, appears, quite surprisingly, on the videos screen, on the level of character’s inner world, with his eyes full of  tears which have not been cried out yet. At the end of the production instead of Moscow tube photos made by an amateur, the audience can see the photo of actors, he camera approaches it closer and closer so as to see its close-up…

The production is bilingual, which by no means introduces any disruption to the stylistics of the double action. Subtitles presenting the Gogol’s  texts are shown on the screen, simultaneously the monologue is made in German. Shortly before his final monologue the Popriščin’s face reflects the signs of a tired Russian man. And it is in the Russian language that he asks his mother to console him, to let him cling to her breast and to shed tears over him.

By no means was the Belarusian actor inhibited while mastering the moment of becoming conscious; he was laid-back and sensitive, in this scene his character opens his heart before witnesses, before the audience. Within half an hour Anatol Kot changes himself several times, he lets his character to “reopen” his soul again and again – just like in the Internet one website is open one after another. He keeps the time: first he lulls his audience slowly so as he could shake them up later using true and strong feelings.

Tatjana Kotowitsch

Theatre critic

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