Gogol Center, Moscow
Presented in the frame of Russian Case
Участник программы «Russian Case» Фестиваля 2016 года
based on Nikolai Nekrasov`s poem

Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
Age category 18+
Kirill Serebrennikov strives to express Russia’s age-old trouble and Nekrasov’s care for the Russian people. The director uses a number of genres to do so without exaltation: street theatre, modern dance, talk show and ceremonial promenade. People’s suffering and vain endeavours are expressed in the dance of a drunken fellow in a beautiful scene choreographed by Anton Adasinsky. The choreographer uses the dance to articulate despair and the futility of hope. The actress Yevgeniya Dobrovolskaya, who plays the monumental and emotional Matryona, incarnates the pain of the people. The final scene sounds optimistic, and comes as a contrast to the generally pessimistic theme of the production. Nekrasov believed in the people’s strength, in their slow alacrity, the high morals that do not show immediately, in their senses and sensibility. The faith in “ordinary people” has proved illusionary, as we see today. But we continue to believe in a miracle - that somewhere, deep inside the Russian people’s nature there is an irrational and spontaneous element that will emerge and change their destiny. “Every bullet has its billet”: sooner or later, men will settle down, stop drinking and asking questions that have no answers.

Pavel Rudnev

The production starts with the audience scrutinizing the stage, where uncomfortable heavy school chairs with metal legs and inclined backs are standing, and the pipe of an unknown gas pipeline or heating line, coming to the surface so often, even in Moscow, crosses the stage from left to right. Above the wall, which later will uncover the full depth of the stage, and for now just marks another barrier behind the pipe, we see sparkling twisted circles of barbed wire. In one spot a carpet has been placed right on top of the pipe. So you think – the space for talking about “who is happy in Russia” is organized well. This is where men from different villages come, all of them well-recognizable types. Picturesque old Pakhom cannot make up his mind, is torn in this thoughts between a boyar and a minister… When after the question “who” a pause hangs in the air, there is a small laugh in the audience: looking at these men it is quite obvious that they will get confused in their answers, as they cannot say anything about themselves on that score. Not one of them. Everything is “according to Nekrasov”.

The production is diverse, farcical, kaleidoscope, just like in the case of Nekrasov, who drapes, hides with farcical intonation and motley talks the hopelessness of this “road movie”, the essential “happilessness” of peasant life, and in reality – any other kind of life in Russia. Because nobody in the city or anywhere else high up there can consider himself happy, if this happiness is built on such tragic “bones”.

Nezavisimaya Newspaper

WHO IS HAPPY IN RUSSIA is superlatively patriotic. There is no arrogance, no over-fastidiousness, no hypocritical servility, no false cordiality in it. Answering the question “what will be with our Motherland and with us” the author doesn’t go squeamishly aside, he himself is a part of this world, one of the seven men who are dancing their desperate dance in the road dust. And no words are needed as long as you have the energy for laughing and crying.

WHO IS HAPPY IN RUSSIA is a melting pot of genres, where everything blends: drama, ballet, opera, circus, low-brow folklore, defile, club party, rock concert. The production is like a matryoshka where all sisters have different parents. The rhythm is frantic and hectic, the orchestra rattles with brass and stumbles over percussion, pictures change, like in a performance at the fair: you haven’t scrutinized one well enough yet when it is changed by another, and it seems that there are hundreds of them in store.

WHO IS HAPPY IN RUSSIA is not a diagnosis, it is a journey - excruciating, sweet, bitter, drunken. The predetermined journey, which we are sentenced to, which we are involved in, written into, rubbed into. The journey where the impending doom borders with delight. If it is true that every talented director works at one production all his life, then WHO IS HAPPY IN RUSSIA by Serebrennikov is a continuation of THE GOLOVLYOV FAMILY and KIZHE with their mystical awe, and also DEAD SOULS and THE GOLDEN COCKEREL with their low-brow folk gloom. To put it in one word, it is a hard won dialogue with the public, which the director fully trusts. The three acts of the production are completely self-sufficient and autonomous – both in the plot and in genre.

The New Times

With all its publicistic nature, the new production by Serebrennikov is a highly aesthetic show, with a free arrangement of different-genred scenes where there is room for farcical gags, and for a defile of faery costumes a-la-russe style, and for musical pieces by Rita Kron who is brilliant in singing Soviet chartbusters about mother Russia. There is also a whole dancing act to the music by Ilya Demutskiy (the one who composed music for the Bolshoi Theatre ballet HERO OF OUR TIMES) staged by Anton Adasinskiy.

Serebrennikov and his actors succeeded in creating a sober and bitter production about Russia, full of healthy spite, conscious stoicism and actor drive. As for the question “who is happy here?”, you can reply with certainty – the audience of Gogol Centre. As long as there are such outstanding and meaningful premieres, there is enough air to breathe here.