William Shakespeare


Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow
Director Rimas Tuminas

A successful anti-war play based on one of Shakespeare’s less popular productions

Russia has ordinary and academic theatres, the latter being of national importance. The Vakhtangov Theatre with its drama school is one of these, carrying on the traditions established by Evgeny Vakhtangov 87 years ago. It is the tradition of “the theatre of presentation” at the Vakhtangov which is in contrast with “the theatre of empathy” followed by the creators of the Moscow Art Theatre. Last year the Culture Ministry appointed a foreigner as the theatre’s director. The move created the same level of debate as when Dutchman Gus Hiddink was appointed head coach for the Russian football team. Rimas Tuminas studied directing in Russia, has directed numerous Russian classics and possesses a style and manner similar to that of the Vakhtangov Theatre. However, far more important is that Tuminas, like many other directors from the Baltic States, has always worked at the junction of two cultures – Russian and Western. He is sensitive towards the themes that are common to everyone, and his stage language is as universal as Esperanto.

At the Vakhtangov Theatre Tuminas chose one of the least popular and unsuccessful plays by Shakespeare and made an outstanding production about war. On stage Tuminas reveals a tragedy from the age of decadence. The Trojan War has been going for several years; a tiny piece of the Apple of Discord remains. Helen has grown fat and arouses only disgust; duty has degenerated into stupidity, heroism has turned into vanity. The theme of Troilus and Cressida stands out against such a backdrop: it is a performance within a performance. The actors play their roles as if untouched by the global decadence around them, like Romeo and Juliet unable to see that the person bringing them together, Pandarus, is not Lorenzo the monk, but a vulgar go-between. The love of these young people is the last hope for a dying world. In comparison with Cressida’s betrayal, so quick and anxious, the death of Romeo and Juliet is a happy, fairy-tale ending.

Elena Kovalskaya

It appears as if the director has not added anything to the play, but the bulky and ungainly text is transformed into an elegant farce. With the help of the actors, who remember for the first time in many years the taste of a bright, carnival, almost circus-like production he creates a freak show worthy of Goya’s envy. […]

In the production by Tuminas like a baroque painting, the picture leaves the frame. Showing the degeneration of human emotions, the director touches upon the theatre itself where actors are no longer capable of playing high passion. In fact all the characters have two roles: not just as actors in a Shakespeare play, but playing competing comedians imitating Shakespeare. In the final curtain call there is almost a scuffle as the grinning actors jostle each other and grab flowers from the audience.[…] This final comedy is evidence that the Vakhtangov actors are still in excellent form. At least a dose of Mr. Tuminas has done them a power of good.

Alla Shenderova,

Tuminas is one of the chosen few, who has a 100% pure director’s blood running through his veins: he inspires the stage, fills it with his determination and artistic intelligence, turning the performance into a distinct world.

From the very first moment of Troilus and Cressida you feel yourself in a field of attraction of its long stringy, ailing atmosphere. The poisoned air little by little, virtually unnoticed invades you like the noise of waves that evenly, ceaselessly accompany the entire play.
The director’s nauseating burlesque energy multiplied by the comedy of Shakespeare’s words is covered by a grey and dusty battlefield. And nothing, not even love, and no one, not even the lovers, are able to avoid its noxious dust which makes everything meaningless.

Alyona Karas,
RG (Rossiskaya Gazeta)