"Priyut Komedianta" (Abode of the Comedians) Theatre
Directed by Konstantin Bogomolov
In contemporary Russian theatre, Konstantin Bogomolov is a director who, whatever text he turns his hand to, sees the possibility of making an insightful comment on the fate of his homeland and its citizens. LEAR became the most talked about theatrical event last season both in St. Petersburg and Moscow - possibly because of its irreverence towards the classics, or because of the blatant confusion of theatrical language, or due to the severity of its "message". The action of Shakespeare’s play, larded, however, with texts from Nietzsche's Zarathustra, Shalamov and Paul Celan, is moved to early Soviet 30s and 40s and then - to the stagnant 80s. Lear himself is played by Rose Khairullina as a hardened dictator, raping Russia in public, and doing it not without pleasure; Russia appears here as a silicone doll painted to represent a map. The whole truth of the Kremlin with Lear’s manic daughters, murderers and agents of the NKVD, obsessed with Freud, unfolds before our eyes. This claustraphobic production,is an excessive spectacle which has a painful effect on some, and a cathartic one on others. Whatever your feelings about this play, the director has protected himself by his own manifesto, expressing everything he thinks about the Russian State and the lack of freedom for Russian citizens.
Pushing away from Shakespeare's tragedy, director Bogomolov gets into the collective subconscious of the Soviet history, breaking into the most sacred thing, which, naturally, turns out the most painful one: the scene is laid before and during the war, which according to Bogomolov, should be defined as the "war of our fascism against their fascism". "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Nietzsche, poems by Paul Celan and Samuil Marshak, Varlam Shalamov and Revelations of Saint John the Divine were called for as allies to Shakespeare. This literary structure is vulnerable, as any text combination not legalized in school readers, and convincing as any compilation, supported by the density of theatrical text and semantic imitation, both unexpected and justified, as the rhyme of the Apocalypse with King Lear's monologue, calling for the storm to destroy this world. Bogomolov's performance is placed in two "frameworks". The "big" one links the prologue with the epilogue - the state leaders come up to the mausoleum tribune in the pre-war year at the beginning of the performance and for the Victory parade at the end of it. In the "small" one the characters sit close to each other at a folding polished table crammed with salads and covered with a tablecloth (a white one - at the beginning, a red one - at the end). The Director, however, excludes any direct associations and personal analogies.
[…] All the characters have undergone a gender change: male parts are played by actresses and female parts - by actors. The comic effect does not do any harm, it is presented in a very subtle way, and that's not the point of the performance: the effect of human entity transformation in the world of blotted out individualities and identities is more important for Bogomolov.
«I think it's important to inform the audience that they go to a director's theatre, which is presently most common in Europe and has not been sufficiently active in this country so far. This is author's theatre, which doesn't involve reproducing the text of a play or indulgence in some habitual expectations of the audience. It expresses a statement that can give rise to disputes or rejection, but it is its value that people come on stage and express their sincere, honest individual opinion. This is the first point. The second one is that this theatre is sufficiently social – in the sense that it tries speaking to people about contemporary things in the present day language. And though we talk about Shakespeare and some fairly abstract play with elements of a parable, this performance is as close to us as possible –by a transfer in time and domestication of some situations and images, on the one hand, and, by somehow turning our reality into a myth and thanks to Shakespeare bringing it to the level of parable generalization, on the other hand. Thus occurs mutual enrichment of the two works - by two mirrors being placed opposite each other, with multiplication of meanings and sensations of the audience. I don't think that the audience coming to the performance should expect a comedy, or entertainment or, on the contrary, a melodrama or a tragedy. I think that the genres system has outlived itself in general. What we are presently dealing with is not a genre theatre, this performance like any author's performance, creates its own individual genre. Author's theatre is so remarkable, because it can no longer be referred to any typification – it is absolutely individual. I think that the people coming here have to be internally free, open and ready for an inner dialogue and dispute, including one with themselves».
from Konstantin Bogomolov's interview, Fontanka.ru
Bogomolov has managed to grab something very important in Shakespeare's poetic style -not at the level of banal bourgeois candy-box beauty approved by society (he is not Zeffirelli for all that), but on the very level of Shakespeare's "Globe" structure . Well, let's say: I do not know whether consciously or obeying some philological intuition, Bogomolov has produced a play based on Shakespeare's triad of the natural-unnatural and supernatural. And, accordingly, all the performance elements are distributed by him in accordance with these three trends. And then we get a lot of intersection points between the main concept lines. The natural element — from the very first minutes of the performance all the "nature" has already been affected by an incurable disease, Lear is sick, the Kremlin wall crumbles down, some cancer muck spawns around. There is one step to the unnatural here: kids revolt against fathers, fathers are none the worse - remember how easily mutual damnations are uttered in this performance. There are also men disguised as women, and women disguised as men –there is no clownery, it is a literal perversion of nature. Of course, all this is endlessly fraught with theatre acting. By the way, about "pregnancy": remember the sumptuous story about Regana's growing hump, which is actually a sign of her (his) pregnancy. It is a powerful image, true, scary and funny at the same time.