Ivan Vyrypaev, verses by Abai Kunanbaev


“OXIGEN” movement and Theatre Centre “Na Strastnom”, Moscow
Directors: Ivan Vyrypaev, Valery Karavaev

A performance provocation

Some people call this provocative production Zen Buddhist meditation, another group considers that it ridicules the audience, while others think it is a radical statement about the unity of cultures. The performance is by Ivan Vyrypaev, the director of three other theatrical productions: Oxygen, Genesis #2, July and the film Euphoria which won a Golden Lion from the Independent Young Jury at the Venice Film Festival. He normally writes his own scripts for his productions but in Explain there is no script. The production is based on a lecture on classical Kazakh author, Abai Kunanbaev, and his poems recited in Kazakh and Russian. Vyrypaev is struck by the fact that poetry, which sounds like a prayer or music in the original, loses its power in translation. He is searching for a way to deliver the power of this poetry to the audience but he has to admit his own ineffectiveness. Vyrypaev comes to the conclusion that the sublime is only open to genuine hearts, and he brings the audience to this point using a most paradoxical method.

Among four of the actors in the play there is one actress, Karolina Gruszka from Poland who played in David Lynch’s Inland Empire and in Vyrypaev’s last film Oxygen. In the middle of the performance the actress suddenly suggests watching a cartoon from her childhood – a Polish film about a funny dog. The actress shows the film and then gives her interpretation of it. She talks about a dog that could not bear music that came from an evil heart, but was happy to listen to music from a sincere heart. The cartoon about the dog shown in the middle of the play, which is devoted to the great poet who brought Kazakh poetry to the global cultural context, amuses some members of the audience and shocks others. Nevertheless, Vyrypaev succeeds in his attempt to deliver his message that there are no other words which can help people agree other than language from the heart.

Elena Kovalskaya

Having become well-known through his rap Oxygen, chastushka Genesis #2 and lustful July Mr. Vyyrypaev has gradually arrived at ascetism. He came to the conclusion that on the whole being mired in a deep crisis (I do not mean the economic one, of course) theatre and art should be like Malevich’s Black Square - a dark and mysterious space which everyone understands in his/her own way. His production Explain is such an artfully painted “Malevich.”

Four young actors recite poetry by Abai Kunanbaev on stage. In Russian his poetry sounds temperamental <…> but in a rather didactic way; in Kazakh it sounds extremely melodious. They do not recite much though just five or six poems. From time to time the actors improvise by playing musical instruments <…>.

Light and shadows, silence and noise (an amateurish performance on musical instruments is overridden by a slow oriental melody) take turns in an ideal rhythm. The actors <…> brilliantly recite poems and conduct themselves with dignity. In addition, they are so good at being silent that the tension in the auditorium does not fade but the opposite, almost grows to bursting. In the old days - the days of large theatres, famous plays and great artists - it was known as “to hold a pause.” About this irrevocable passed epoch that like Abai’s poetry and the narration in Ivan Vyrypaev’s production, is incomprehensible and “untranslatable” into the language of modern theatre. Or more accurately, remains silent about it most of the time.

Alla Shenderova

Photo © Roman Ekimov