Slava Polunin: The Monologue of a Clown – 4: Theatre


Sometimes they ask me, if I would like to talk on stage. It’s too late now. At one time I realized that life possesses some fascinating mysteries that you cannot express in words. There is much more I can say without words. There are plenty of artists besides me whose inspiration is Gogol, and they are in perfect command of these techniques. Why should I concur with them when I can embrace that part of life which is no less impressive and which will remain unknown without me?

Generally speaking, I do not like modern dramatic theatre, there is little joy I get from it. That’s why I try to visit it as seldom as possible. That kind of acting does not possess you, it doesn’t flow over the footlights. It tickles, yeah, but it doesn’t inspire. I wonder why, but it seems the modern drama theatre still walks on one leg. For some reason Meyerhold, Tairov, Evreinov, Radlov, the stage reformers of the 20s, had so quickly realized those magnificent opportunities of plastic art and began using them. Meanwhile, today’s directors just spit on it.

At the Theatre Olympics I haven’t seen a lot, due to a lack of time. But there were some things that I liked very much. The Zingaro’s Horse Circus, e.g. It wasn’t the best performance of Bartabas, its director, but generally he is a great horse trainer, and his feeling for the horses is fantastic. The Streller’s Harlequin is a great play, and I liked it although I’ve seen it before. The Dreamplay by Wilson is an example of visual performance that I love to bits. Sure, maybe, Wilson is a director for directors. Yeah, sometimes he is boring, dull, but he went so far that it inspires. I learn a lot from his performances: careful attention to the light, the minutiae, the change of colours, the objects’ rhythm… His artistic world for me is a feast of ideas.
May one say that modern dramatic theatre is surviving crisis? I know not. It only seems to me that the dramatic theatre forgot where it had begun. The stage directors have desperately crippled upwards and eventually lost their base. They were possessed with the analysis of a synchrophazotron, but they forgot about the theatrical spirit. I would love to try and turn everything back to the beginning, where the magic of theatre and the aesthetics of it were the one, where the theatrical ritual conjoined us to the Space, to Time, to our destiny, to our contemporaries and predecessors. The moment of truth had importance not as itself, but as a touch to Infinity. What about the dramatic theatre then? – It has to wait for a caravan that walks behind. It is a wrong situation when the audience doesn’t understand the language of director. This language must be readable, at least in some respect. A spectator comes to the theatre, where he is to undertake a certain voyage during the play. The task of the director is to prepare him and to give him all he needs for this trip: a bag, a stick, and details of where to go. And only after that can the director take the spectator to the woods, saying: “You’ve got to search for it somewhere there”. And then he’ll be doing it on his own. But he won’t do so otherwise; instead he’ll let the grass grow under his feet.

Translated from Russian by Julia Shuvalova.



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