Performance “Uncle Vanya” at Russian Theatre.
Director: Igor Lysov.
Set-designer: Isabella Kozinskaya.
Composer: Aleksandr Zedelyov.
Photography: Jelena Vilt.
Russian Theatre opened its 67th season in September 2014 with the premiere of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”. The director and artistic director of the theatre Igor Lõssov has depicted the fall of Russian intelligentsia in the best traditions of his school, which began with Konstantin Stanislavski.
What kind of a play is it? There is no point in retelling Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya’s” plot, because when people go to see a classical piece they are not interested in getting to know the plot but in order to see how this particular version is made. What kind of a different perspective the director and actors are presenting. The director looks at the play through his own experience and it presents the story from a new angle. The actors are working with the plot and the Lõssov-Chekhov characters, trained under professional guidance, make us believe every time that the next scene is different and not like Chekhov’s at all. The story gets a new direction and an alternative reality opens up in front of the audience’s eyes. This creates a tension and holds viewers captive throughout the whole show.
In the course of a show that lasts almost two and a half hours nine actors and nine eternal characters create a Chekhovian universe, which separates the viewer from the outside world and fills their thoughts with the atmosphere on stage. The dialogue moves back and forth between the actors like a baton, creating the sense of constant motion. In this show the director follows classical rules, but adds his own personal touch. The stage is like the world. Without changing the set, but showing them on different levels, the director ads space and broadness to this world. Guiding the characters’ facial expressions and movements, he quietens the tragic with humour and revives it again with the actors’ voices. By adding music he creates a special atmosphere in certain moments. Playing with the light, he makes the shadows move in a distinct rhythm. Showing different facets of the world alternatively, he highlights the active characters of the scene and places the others in the shadow, on hold. Not a single scene is left unnoticed in this performance, because every segment is part of an integral organism.
What is more, the Chekhov characters, portrayed magnificently, display contemporary features as well. Talking about the play’s main subject Igor Lõssov said that the main emphasis in the play is on the notion that the “Russian intelligentsia who couldn’t step out of the routine, can rest assured that they will only feel good after death.” And at the moment when Astrov, portrayed by Oleg Rogatšov, utters what is probably the most important phrase in the play – “those who will live a hundred or two hundred years after us and despise us for having spent our lives so thoughtlessly and tastelessly will perhaps find a way to be happy…” – the viewer understands this is a message that reached him or her from times long ago. The audience hears this the second the actor addresses them, feeling like someone in a time machine – 19th or 21st century doesn’t exist; everything that took place at that moment is happening here and now.
The unattainable “bright future” is in reality timeless and there is a chance to live and be happy in today’s world. It is a liberating feeling and brings tears of joy in one’s eyes, making us once again admire this undying work of literature, presented in such an enthralling form.
The most important part of the show, however, is the end scene – it is the key that opens up the idea behind the whole action. It is Sonya’s monologue. All the other characters are present, they are static, but very expressive. It is Uncle that listens to and watches Sonya admiringly. There is the old nurse, also Astrov, Telegin and the local workman. The departing spouses – the Serebryakovs. The old hag Voynitskaya who is standing, frozen, her hands raised, watching them leave. The stage turns 90 degrees and already she is waving goodbye to the audience. At this moment the viewers can feel the characters becoming distant, the integrality of the world created dispersing, but the “bright future” unattainable for the characters is left behind with the viewers.
As if to confirm this, and to give hope to the characters of the play, the director ends the performance with the music of Tšaif singing “Don’t rush us to bury… “
Svetlana Prosvetova "A bright future through the historical lense"
Performance “Uncle Vanya” at Russian Theatre.