based on Alexander Dovzhenko’s film EARTH


Alexandrinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Presented in the frame of Russian Case

Director: Maxim Didenko

Maxim Didenko has a serious interest in the esthetics of the early period of the Soviet art and the issues it dealt with. His new production EARTH is based on the script of Alexander Dovzhenko’s silent film under the same title. The film made in 1930 shows the struggle of kulaks against Bolsheviks for land, bread and peaceful labor. Didenko takes the world famous masterpiece of metaphoric realism and moves the action to our time and adds a new esthetic. The audience is sitting on both sides of a basketball field on which two teams in blue and red outfit are engaged in a basketball game, boxing and gymnastics. Sport games become an art object, and the basketball field is turned into a location for an installation.

Like in the film, there is almost no text in the performance; the scenes are accompanied by a video projection of surtitles from the film. The music for the production was written by Ivan Kushnir, Didenko`s permanent coauthor.

Pavel Rudnev

At the basis of the production by Maxim Didenko EARTH is the same-titled film by A. Dovzhenko. A silent film made in the 30s about collectivisation, division of lands and senseless death, which should never have happened. Didenko's show presents associations of the creative team, if we could say that, on the topic of fighting and inadmissible death. Like the film, the show runs without words, but with rare subtitles. Yet are they necessary at all? Associations based on a film and expressed with the means of theatre have strayed far away from the plot chronology, and the lines that run on a black screen high up at the ceiling, are not always easily correlated with what we see. The production uses the film as a basis only, it is by itself a completely independent creative act. It has a different context, anchors and topics. Where there was a division of land at the collective farms, we see now the division of lands between Russia and Ukraine; where there were peasants, we see athletes; where there were the 30s, we see the 90s in style and 2010s in the agenda. But one thing remains unshakable. A team should remain a team, sport should remain sport, fighting should remain fighting. No goal can be more precious than human life. No death can open up the door into a bright future.

OKOLO Art Magazine

EARTH by Dovzhenko is a kind of a reference point. In it the earth takes, but it also gives. In the film dead Vasiliy’s body floats above the field ascending like a body of a new martyr. In the production the polished floor of a sports hall is gradually split apart by the “mouths” of graves. If the earth is broken up, like with Dovzhenko, then by dead bodies only. “Olympians”, naked and nameless, covered with earth, are dressed in identical gray potato sacks, as if preparing to lie down into a common grave.

In the film life and death co-exist, complementing each other. Vasiliy’s death becomes the foundation of new life, new people bury the hero, and right at the same time a peasant woman gives birth behind a hurdle. Didenko created a very powerful conception scene, resembling a pagan ritual – women’s bodies very very slowly “leak down” raised-up wooden boards supported by men. But only terrifying homunculi are born out of graveyard earth to go back into it later.

St. Petersburg Theatre Journal