Mikhail Durnenkov


The Playwright and Director Centre, Moscow
Director Marat Gatsalov

New drama about its own place

Fifteen years ago new drama had the opportunity to win the Russian stage. The plays by young angry playwrights were the centre of attention; they were staged in both independent theatres and at Russia’s main theatre, MKhAT. The then-newly opened Playwright and Director Centre was at the vanguard of the trend; many playwrights and directors made their debut at the centre but most importantly, topical plays were staged there.
Now, fifteen years later the conclusion can be drawn that new drama has not become a source of income for the theatre. Neither the theatre nor the audience are ready to discuss the burning issues of the modern world. Most theatres concentrate on the classics and entertaining comedy, whereas new drama develops in local centres. One of these centres is the Playwright and Director Centre. This season they opened their own premises, The Stage on Begovaya, which kicked off with a performance of Trash, based on Mikhail Durnenkov’s play and directed by debutant Marat Gatsalov.

The popular writer in Russia Michel Houellebecq compared consumer society with a supermarket; Durnenkov shows it as a second-hand shop.

At the beginning of the play a producer orders a script from a writer about man’s purpose. Everyday life assists the playwright to write the script. Against his will, his personal life gets entangled with the stories of outsiders of different genders, ages and occupations. The audience is sat among piles of old furniture, boxes and crates containing old clothes. The scenes are set in various parts of the house, and the audience is barely able to turn their heads to follow the action and listen attentively to the words: the actors play their loser-heroes in a low hyper-realistic manner. This acting method charms and sometimes shocks in a background of general theatrical noise and it seems a real innovation, but it is not the most real thing about the play. The playwright genuinely describes the dilemma he is exposed to in the theatre. The first is to be led by the theatre, to write about life as the audience would like to see it and be successful. The second way is to fix and analyse reality in a straightforward manner. Durnenkov establishes the fact, and the real-life situation in modern theatre proves it is a path along the edge.

Elena Kovalskaya

In Trash the uncomplicated conviction of the author and skilful imitation of a documentary come together artlessly. On the one hand, we are offered a new world model without revolution and heroes, or rather a protagonist, who dimly suffers for a long time before taking a gun and shooting people in a shop. In the play only the final shot is described, the drunk man and the sales assistant face the wall while the mother cries out in fear: “Kill them, son, do it!” The main protagonist ridiculously brandishes the gun without letting off a shot. In the titles we are shown news footage of recent political disturbances in Europe and the Middle East: the frightened face of women, beaten protestors and a full-faced shot of a young police officer. However, the final pathos in the expressive finale is swept away by the following photos of the good looking playwright and other members of the production.

Christina Matvyenko,
Vremya Novostei