Times have changed. We no longer watch the elegant and the sublime to entertain ourselves; now it’s football, brutal - Russia unexpectedly beating Holland during Euro 2008, what the hell - and during which you are obliged to sing the national anthem; Carmen-sque lip-syncing to a track that sounded as if came out of the Cocteau Twins from the 80s; terribly sung variation of Ne me quitte pas; lazy drag queen that mouths I Will Survive, confident that the audience will still probably be obsessively absorbed.
This is the way that Krymov remakes Alexander Ostrovsky’s 19th century Without a Dowry —supposedly an inspiration for Chekhov’s own works— for the modern Russian society, a realistic, and rather dark approach that I am sure countless others would enjoy.
Watching this protracted story of an old-fashioned and obscurantist local community of wannabes with their weird rituals reminds me of this reality that we exist in, where we pretend on a daily basis that falseness is the best way to survive: Wearing wigs, singing to playbacks, wearing expensive suit with detached tags, men playing mothers, wedding that never supposed to happen, standing straight whenever the national anthem pops up… What this story tells us about a local community, Krymov makes it universal, that it’s not a country for naive people.
The slow pace of a play is justified; when the barrier between audience and actors vanishes, that is when you go deeper into spectacle, the more you appreciate its structure. It is in the chaos, a certain Brechtian madness, that the story really clicks, ending with a conclusion that might remind the Polish audience of Warlikowski’s The Taming of the Shrew (1998). I only wished that there were more of that chaos and madness where one can lose yourself, but that Putin-named mushroom? That I would love to see even in the real world.
Review by Łukasz Mańkowski, Skontaktowani
Photo courtesy of Natalia Cheban