IX Chekhov International Theatre Festival
Performances at the Jubilee Chekhov International Theatre Festival in June represent both traditional theatre and experiments in dance and music. Two dance versions of The Cherry Orchard and Platonov are expected to sell out fast and become one of the most attended performances in the Festival calendar.
In Chekhov’s world, there were multiple perspectives and this is probably one of the reasons why his plays are so often transformed by various theatre directors into genres that the author himself could hardly have imagined. Not in his wildest imagination could he have envisaged that his last play, The Cherry Orchard, would serve as endless inspiration to modern choreographers. The stage version being performed in Moscow, directed by Mats Ek of the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm, tries to portray “a drama about time and loss of time”, as the famous Swedish choreographer refers to his own vision of the play.
Another attempt to tap into Chekhov’s spiritual message in The Cherry Orchard is brought to Moscow audiences by the outstanding Taiwanese choreographer and founder of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, LIN Hwai-min, a fourthtime guest of Chekhov International Festival. This production, to be staged on June 10-13, is based on The Cherry Orchard and performed to music for solo cello by J. S. Bach. The creative ideas for Whisper of Flowers came from both the classical Chinese literature work, Dream of Red Chamber, written around the middle of the eighteenth century and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Lin’s imagery in the dance is one of exuberance fading into unknown darkness. He also forsook the characters and drama of the original play and illustrated this universal theme with the use of metaphors.
“In Hwai-min’s production of the Cherry Orchard and its inhabitants, its angels and demons, its dead and its living, its metaphysics of light and shadows become the key elements, the central metaphor and the environment of the acting space,” says Russian theatre critic Alyona Karas, who went to see Lin Hwai-min’s Chekhovian meditation in 2008 when it premiered in Taiwan.
The performance opens on a stage full of red petals. As dancers leap and run with abandonment, petals are tossed into different ‘geographies’.
New productions of Chekhov’s plays at Moscow theatres are also part of the June festival program. The Stanislavsky Moscow Drama Theatre is dedicating ‘The Chekhov Brothers’ to Chekhov’s personality, his childhood and personal life.
“Our intention was to explore the time when the young Chekhov was maturing into the great classical writer Anton Chekhov,” says Director Alexander Galibin. The play is to be staged on June 15-16.
Chekhov Gala is a composition of five one-act plays by Anton Chekhov directed by Alexei Borodin of the Russian Academic Youth Theatre.
“Each story storms into another, interrupting and overtaking its predecessor. It is a kaleidoscope of human passions, a collision of absurd situations and impracticable intentions that evolve into a sparkling Chekhovian phantasmagoria,” says Alexei Borodin about his vision of this play. It premiers on June 17.
The month finishes off with Platonov, put on by the National Drama Center of Madrid on 29-30 June. This early play is also known as A Play Without a Title. It was written in 1878, but published only in 1923. It is famous because of two productions: one a successful 1984 adaptation by UK playwright Michael Frayn; the second a highly rewarding performance by Lev Dodin at the Maly Theatre of St. Petersburg, staged in 1997. The latter version inspired a celebrated film: An Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano, made by Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov in 1976.
Juan Mayorga’s Platonov runs to two and a half hours, which is much shorter than the original. The Spanish dramatist cut the meandering text of the young Chekhov, which has a lot of storylines and is generally regarded as juvenilia. Geraldo Vera and his actors set a fast rhythm enabling the inner pulse of Chekhov’s play to reach the pitch of a hurricane.
“Platonov is a captivating world in which the characters experience the same existential pains that torture the more emblematic personages of Chekhov’s great plays; characters that became a perfect mirror for all the social and cultural prototypes of late 19th century Russian society,” says Gerardo Vera about the play that had a triumphal reception in Spain, where it premiered in March 2009.
PASSPORT will continue to cover the Chekhov International Theatre Festival. The full program of the Festival can be found at chekhovfest.ru