How the press conference of the first artistic director of the Mayakovsky Theatre Vsevolod Meyerhold was taking place, how the director Popov was persuading the actors to study the life on the factories in the Urals, why during Okhlopkov’s time there were scales standing in the theatre and what Goncharov’s legendary scream was like – the performance on the ninety-year history of the Mayakovsky Theatre gives an account of all that as well as of theatre magic from stagehands’ lips.
If somebody considers the Mayakovsky Theatre too academic, this feeling will be dispelled during the performance. Ninetimesten presents the scenes from the ninety-year history seen through the eyes of young people of today. They are really performed in the cloakroom: the audience sit on the benches along the walls; and one of the openings, through which coats are checked, is covered with a screen. The screen shows video and documentary shots. Famous people are dealt shortly with: when the young actors perform the press conference of Vsevolod Meyerhold and Anatoly Lunacharsky in 1922, the meeting of actors from two Hamlets by Nikolay Okhlopkov and by Peter Brook or the horrible way in which Andrey Goncharov used to scream at the rehearsals, it reminds one of an amateur music and parody show, funny but humane and touching at the same time.
Historical characters are played in a slightly grotesque way, but the actors do not go too far. It is really hilarious to watch Meyerhold languishing while the student Nina Ter-Osipyan (exactly that comic old woman) is reading a fable or the director Alexey Popov persuading Maria Babanova to go to a factory in the Urals and to study the life of workers (that’s how famous A Poem About an Axe emerged)
Inspired by the curators of the whole project Sasha Denisova and Nikita Kobelev the ‘Mayakovka’ actors conducted in the verbatim spirit: they had been studying the ‘oral’ history of their theatre through the stories of its living witnesses and historical documents for more than a month. Young neophytes and their more mature colleagues impressed by the masters’ stories composed their own versions of the events out of them.
Reviving the theatre’s history, the young actors of the ‘Mayakovka’ were turning now into the ‘grenadier’ Okhlopkov (the word used by Galina Anisimova), now into coquettish and great Maria Babanova, now into wildly screaming Andrey Goncharov. Or suddenly they would become the participants of the historical ‘match’ between the two Hamlets – that of Peter Brook and that of Nikolay Okhlopkov – that was organized in 1956 during the tour of the London cast in newly thawed out Moscow. It was when Hamlet-Samoylov was pressing fragile English Ophelia into the wall with his thunderous temperament.
The newly appropriated history, acquired as a part of personal biography, as a part of home folklore, became a real character of this extraordinary feast.
Ninetimesten is a really good performance. It is not an amateur music and parody show, although there are a lot of funny and parody episodes here. It is neither a gloomy verbatim, because besides recorded and accurately and ‘systematically’ performed actors’ monologues, it has masterfully thought up and performed etudes based on the theatre legends. And the hilarious scenes interchange with dramatic stories about actors’ jealousy, absence of demand, loneliness.
Blog of the Teatr magazine
The premiere performance took place on 2 December 2012.
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes
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