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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


English Divorce through Russian Eyes
Olga Mikhailova

Show me a man who hasn’t deceived his wife. Not too many such men around, unless you include single men. The theme of love triangles, deception, adultery and so on has been alive and well in the theatre for hundreds of years.

One of Russia’s best director’s: Vladimir Mirzoev, has produced “Betrayal,” written by 2005 Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter. This play is on at the K.S. Stanislavsky theatre. Pinter admitted that the script for his play was based on real characters: Harold Pinter, journalist Joanne Blackwell and her TV producer husband Michael Blackwell. In 1983 the producer David Jones created a screen version of the play, and the love triangle consisted of Jeremy Irons, Patricia Hodge and Ben Kingsley. Andrei Merzlikin, Anna Churina and Maxim Sukhanov play the roles in Moscow. The show, like the play, has been constructed “back to front,” in reverse chronological order. In the beginning we see a man and a woman who have had nothing to do with each other for two years. They had had an affair sometime in the past, and the lover was the best friend of the husband. Jerry (the lover) was sure that Robert (the husband) knew nothing about the affair. But he did, and gave nothing away; they continued to be friends, lunched and drunk together weekly. Why is it that now, when everything occurred in the past, is Jerry still so upset? Did the husband know or not – what’s the difference? Step by step, scene to scene, we move backwards to the beginning of the novel. What do we see? Love? No, desire. Desire to have a beautiful woman, even if she is the wife of your best friend. The play was written thirty years ago, but sounds very contemporary, because it is not about deceit (deceit doesn’t hurt people; there is no love), but about betrayal. Yes, for the last hundred years we have got used to the concept of marriage not being forever; that families are easily made and easily broken, and that thing we call love really being falling in love plus lust. The ties of friendship, in contrast to the ties of marriage still seem to us to be solid and almost sacred. It is the betrayal of a friend that reveals in all their glory, the formality and moribund nature of our human relationships, the total loneliness in which modern man lives, regardless of how many people surround him. Harold Pinter is famous for his dialogues. The play’s heroes do not show their true feelings anywhere, they display an English reservedness, and their silence says more than words. This is not so obvious in the Russian version, the director and actors display the full sensitivity of the heroes. There is a lot of body language so even if you aren’t totally fluent in Russian, there is something for you here. The actors literally turn you inside out like children who take dolls apart to find out what is inside them: hidden competition, fear, but no love.

K.C. Stanislavsky Theatre  
April 10,23,30

Are You a Success?

I await your reply to this question with great interest. Successful or not? Young Belorussian dramatist Pavel Pryazhko’s play is called a resounding: “A Success.” In the finale, the heroines says quite simply: “What do you think? Of course it was a success.” The strongest aspect of this premier at TEATRA.DOC, directed by Mikhail Ugarov is the dialogue. There is no room here for the actors to build a “fourth wall” between themselves and the audience, as there is only a meter separating them from each other in this small theatre. So they are frank, and face the audience directly.

The heroes of this play are young and from a remote part of the countryside, with no real interests in life. The heroine finishes school and falls in love as you are supposed to at eighteen. But he doesn’t love her. His older brother does, and is prepared to marry her. The age-old love triangle is portrayed in a very modern and accurate way by this young author. Our uneducated heroes do not have large vocabularies, and I warn all traditionalists: there are words in this show which are hardly acceptable in the theatre. The dialogue is funny, touching, and dramatic all at the same time. The action revolves around the wedding. Our heroine marries somebody she doesn’t really love. How painful it is, when on the wedding night, your wife doesn’t even want to look at you. The inability to cloth feelings in the right words actually allows the audience to experience the love and suffering in the characters’ souls in a direct way; despite the lack of semantics. It doesn’t take long for the couple to drink through all the money they were given at the wedding, and then they get divorced. Why then has life been successful? Because if, in your life there has been love, even the most insignificant, you can gratefully smile to the heavens and say: I am a success!

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