By Aleksandra Burkhanova
In the best traditions of the Russian theatre school one character must die on stage. Every single time. In both comedy and tragedy plays, whether killed by grief or joy. According to Stanislavski’s system, if the idea “I don’t believe it” flashes across the audience, the performance has failed. “You may literally break your hand and not notice it”, claims Chulpan Hamatova, a famous Russian actress, “ – as the immersion is absolute!” This perhaps makes the Russian theatric system theatre different from any other culture’s – emotions always prevail over self-control.
The Sovremennik Theatre troupe, “the encyclopedia of humans thoughts, relationships and feelings”, as the director Galina Volchek puts it, is currently making its debut on the London stage. The troupe has already experienced performing in Europe, USA, even Cuba, and finally the opportunity to enjoy their work is available to Londoners!
The three performances staged – ‘Into The Whirlwind’ by E.Ginsburg, ‘Three Sisters’ and ‘The Cherry Orchard’ by A.P.Chekhov – are based on masterpieces of Russian literature from the last century, although this hardly belittles its topicality today. From the very beginning (it was founded in 1956) the principle idea of Sovremennik plays (literally translated as ‘contemporary’) was to portray reality in its truest form. The viewer could then recognize himself in a character and react with genuine reflections and beliefs. For this reason, the theatre was adored by intellectual and open-minded youths, but at the same time criticized and oppressed by Soviet leaders.
At present, Sovremennik possesses worldwide fame, and is labelled as “Russian Psychological Theatre” – the best and the only in its style and content. We have a great chance to enjoy it from 21 to 29th of January at the Noel Coward theatre in the West End, London.
I find it really significant that the Sovremennik tour takes place at the same time as The Directorspective of Andrei Konchalovsky at the Barbican Centre (20-30 Jan.) Konchalovsky’s films also demonstrate a strong Stanislavski performance system, but do so on the screen rather than stage, giving the audience an alternative perspective of this unique form of theatre.
So go for it! And do believe.