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The Chekhov International Theatre Festival
The 9th Chekhov International Theatre Festival starts in Moscow on May 25 offering a large-scale jubilee programme dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Russia’s most celebrated playwright. The central event of “Chekhov Year” features major productions by foreign directors from Europe, Asia, North and South America, not to mention some quite outstanding productions directed by Russians. Valery Shadrin, General Manager of the Festival, commented: “all this will allow the public to gain a versatile image of Chekhov’s drama as seen by contemporary theatre practitioners from all over the world”.
Elena Rubinova
Photos courtesy of Chekhov Theatre Festival

Chekhov Days” held in the end of January included quite a number of events: a scholarly theatre conference in Moscow, a series of bold premiers, and even a brief visit of the Russian President to Taganrog, the birthplace of Chekhov. But all that was only a prelude to the main jubilee Festival. Anton Chekhov was one of the few writers who made an equally brilliant contribution to both theatre and fiction, but the great international affection for Chekhov is based mostly on the popularity of his last plays which continue to be staged frequently and enthusiastically. “In Russia he is Russian. In England he is English. In the United States he is American. Or maybe the secret is that he always leaves us perplexed and curious to know more. Rather like life itself”, says John Freedman, an American theatre critic living in Moscow.

The program of the 9th Chekhov Theatre Festival mirrors the diversity that is one of Chekhov’s defining features by addressing various genres of his creative output. Drama companies and choreographic groups from 14 countries are bringing their stage productions of Chekhov’s plays to Moscow. The two-month theatre marathon will open with the highly anticipated new staging of an adapted version of “Three Sisters” and of the novella “Peasants” called “Nach Moskau, Nach Moskau” written by Sebastian Kaiser and directed by Frank Castorf. Castorf, artistic director of the Berlin “Volksbuhne”, is acknowledged for his works in post-dramatic theatre. He has not hesitated to adapt classical novels and has brought Ibsen, Bulgakov and Dostoevsky to theatre audiences.

Right after the opening the Meyerhold Center will host two theatre companies from South America. Daniel Veronese from Argentina brings a courageous adaptation of “Uncle Vanya”, the play with truly passionate characters reminding the audience that Chekhov is strikingly contemporary. Given the fact that the Moscow public recently applauded “Uncle Vanya” directed by Andrey Konchalovsky, a famous Russian film director, and another version by Rimas Tuminas at Moscow Vakhtangov Theatre, it’s hard to say at this stage how successful the Veronese’ version will be. Teatro en el Blanco, an inventive and original theatre company from Santiago (Chile), will present the play “Neva”, written and directed by Guillermo Calderon. The company creates an ingenious fusion of Chekhov’s texts and the company’s unique artistic language. Based upon real characters, “Neva” sets an ironic and sometimes comic situation as it discusses acting techniques, theatre and historical events.

Classical drama versions of Chekhov will be followed by modern dance and ballet interpretations shown in early June. Choreographic Chekhov may still seem unusual but ballet critics believe that the musicality of Chekhov’s dramaturgy and prose makes choreographic interpretation possible. A co-production of Niigata-city Performing Arts Center and Chekhov Theatre Festival promises a fantastic fusion of refined music, reserved movement of modern European dance and traditional Japanese theatre culture. Jo Kanamori is a European-trained 33 year old choreographer from Japan and a second time participant of Chekhov Festival who stunned the Moscow public last year with a Chekhov–based mystical ballet “Nina”. This time he brings a stage version of “The Black Monk” and “Ward № 6” performed to the music of contemporary Georgian composer Gia Kanchelli and Italian Gaetano Braga. “Chekhov’s story is universal and timeless. But I don’t aim to stage Chekhov’s story, I aim to stage Chekhov’s suffering. We all live in Ward №6 and we all have a Black Monk inside us….”commented Jo Kanamori. On the same day, the Mossovet theatre will be hosting the leading Swedish choreographer Mats Ek of the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm with his recent version of the “Cherry Orchard’’. Mats Ek believes that “a theatre director and a choreographer are two entirely different occupations. A director is bound by the dramatic text that is given. But the text is a springboard to jump into the performance”. Mats Ek is known for telling complex stories of love and life using the laconic and reserved language of dance that combines classical ballet and modern dance elements.

Passport Magazine will continue to cover The Chekhov International Theatre Festival.
The full program of the Festival can be found at 

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