John Maxwell Coetzee

Waiting for the barbarians

Oleg Tabakov Theatre, Moscow
Presented in the frame of Russian Case
Участник программы «Russian Case» Фестиваля 2017 года
Director: Alexandre Marine, Nikolai Reutov
Age category 18+

The production by Alexandre Marine, actor and director of the Tabakov Theatre, is the first time that the Russian theatre has turned to Nobel Prize winner John Coetzee. The choice of this novel by the South African writer is significant, because it served as the basis for the eponymous opera by Philip Glass (2005) and uses the name and the metaphor of a well-known poem by C.P. Cavafy. The complex symbolism of the novel is related to the theme of imperialism and internal fear of an uprising of the indigenous peoples. Marine gives the role of the hero, the judge who believes that the barbarians have to be assimilated and introduced to the Empire’s culture, to Andrei Smolyakov; he plays the role with a bared passion that has been almost forgotten in domestic theatre. The painful feeling of the executioner for the victim, the body language which evokes images of apartheid and the Holocaust, the rock drawings on glass – all this relates to the unanswerable question from a poem by Cavafy: «What will happen now? / There was some clarity with the barbarians at least.» The passionate and intelligent pathos of the performance, its Brechtian and deeply national style, force us to see a chilling urgency of the Nobel-prize-winning novel.

Alyona Karas