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Stage director Marat Gatsalov believes that the theater should not serve a regulated public agenda, because each artist feels the surrounding reality in his own way, and it is this particular look of his that is of interest. About the riskiness of modern drama in comparison with the classics, the metaphysics of the actor’s gesture and senseless complaints about the theater Izvestia spoke with Gatsalov, who staged a play based on the novel by Yasnaya Polyana laureate Dmitry Danilov Sasha, hello! at the Theater of Nations.

“The main character is subtle, intelligent, seeing, educated, passionate – he’s still a batch”

– The novel “Sasha, hello!”, on the one hand, belongs to the body of literature about the death penalty, referring to Hugo, Nabokov, Leonid Andreev, on the other hand, fits into the current trend of dystopias, which tells about the misfortune of our time – dehumanization and dehumanization . What was the main thing for you in it, why did you decide to stage a performance based on the play by Dmitry Danilov – did the award fate affect?

— There are allusions in the novel to “The Invitation to Execution” and “The Last Day of the Condemned to Death”, but for me, the main thing was rather that insoluble archetypal problem that is connected with the fundamental tragedy of life. In fact, this “Sasha” (in the play “Sasha” is an automaton that should shoot the main character at any moment. – Izvestia) – a rather ancient image of fate, the sword of Damocles, which is in the life of every person. We met Dima about a year ago, and he sent me a novel that had not yet been published at that time. It was that rare case when I immediately wanted to make a performance out of this material.

The performance “Sasha, hello” based on the play by Dmitry Danilov “Yasnaya Polyana” on the stage of the Theater of Nations

Photo: Theater of Nations

– How did the work on the play develop, it was difficult to rehearseb?

I don’t remember how many versions of the dramatizations we went through until we came to the final one. On the one hand, this story has an archetypal core, on the other hand, it contains a polemic with the classical structure, which was extremely important for Danilov. In addition, in the novel there is a search for an answer to the debatable question of what today’s hero looks like.

– It is interesting that the philologist sentenced to death and his wife become heroes – at first confused and estranged from each other, in the final they find the strength not to be afraid and just send this whole crazy system with a humane death penalty and falsehood to hell.

– Of course. The protagonist of the performance is a thin, intelligent, seeing, intelligent, educated, passionate person – he is still a batch. Not an easy task to find an actor for this role, but in our case it was solved quickly. Even while reading the novel, I imagined Igor Gordin in this role. Besides the fact that he is simply an outstanding and very subtle professional, which, unfortunately, is a rarity today, he is an artist of deep procedurality – he knows how to think on stage. He clearly understands and feels the plasticity of the performance.

The arc of the internal transformation of the hero and heroine is their experience of overcoming a deep interpersonal catastrophe, which, one might say, a model of external anti-utopian reality created by Danilov, became the main focus of the production. What is happening around is not some unknown existential evil, but the evil that is here, inside of us.


During the performance “Sasha, hello”

Photo: Theater of Nations

“Evil is everyday, even everyday.

And not everyday, and not global, it’s just evil and that’s it. Therefore, the characters find themselves in such a comfortable, chlorinated space. This caustic environment is not introduced by secret infernal forces. Evil is in us, and only we can stop it.

– It turns out that the casting immediately took shape?

– Straightaway. And Igor Gordin, and Natalya Vdovina, and Vera Makarenko, and Artem Tulchinsky, and Gleb Romashevsky – they were all approved the first time, everything came together.

– Is this a play?

In this performance, a lot is expressed through the artist’s psychophysics. If there were, for example, another artist instead of Igor, you would have seen a different performance. I often start from the personality of the performer.

“The theater is not about trends”

— Tell us about the visual solution of the performance. Minimalism, white crosses on a black background – reminiscent of the exposition of the Prague Kafka Museum.

The production designer is Nikolai Simonov. This is our first joint work, I am very glad that it took place. I hope we can do more together. If we talk about the main idea, then the decoration is a shooting gallery, which is transformed into a cemetery with crosses, a garden and much more.

– Tell us more about the musical accompaniment.

– This is the amazing music of Volodya Rannev to the verses of Konstantin Steshik, a modern Belarusian poet. I have already worked with Volodya more than once, I consider him an outstanding composer of today. It seemed to me that our heroes, philologists, should be surrounded by a kind of poetic dome that fills their world and shapes their consciousness. I’m very lucky that managed to attract the incredible quartet N’Caged to work on the play.

Director of the Theater of Nations Marat Gatsalov

Director of the Theater of Nations Marat Gatsalov

Photo: Izvestiya/Andrey Ershtrem

– Dmitry Danilov is staged a lot and willingly, but what, in your opinion, is the situation with modern drama in general? Dmitry said in our interview that now there are a lot of good playwrights, only theaters avoid them, because they prefer to stage proven classics.

We saw a huge surge of modern Russian dramaturgy 10-15 years ago. Our authors began to stage not only in Russia, but also in the West. This is Mikhail Durnenkov, and Ivan Vyrypaev, and Slava Durnenkov, and the Presnyakov brothers, Klavdiev, Sigarev, Pulinovich – who was not there. Behind all these processes at that time was Theater.doc, who gathered all this youth in his basement, Elena Gremina and Mikhail Ugarov then created an extraordinary space. Thousands of plays were sent from all over the country to the Lyubimovka festival, which to this day is looking for new authors and annually discovers new names.

“And yet modern dramaturgy is a risk.

– What is the risk?

– Public reaction. By the way, there was a scandal with Danilov’s previous play “Seryozha is very stupid”. Some of the spectators complained that Serezhas are not stupid.

– It seems to me, you need to come up with some kind of system: let those who do not like the performance just leave, let them return the money for tickets. If you don’t like it, leave and that’s it, but why complain?

– Usually they complain that the theater offends moral and aesthetic feelings. Naked actors on stage or obscene language.

– My feelings are offended when I see vulgarity, stupid advertising that hangs all over Moscow. My feelings are offended when our television shows disgusting untalented serials and talk shows. Theater is an art, it should not serve a regulated public agenda.

Rehearsal of Marat Gatsalov’s play “Telluria” based on the novel by Vladimir Sorokin on the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theater

Photo: RIA Novosti / Alexey Danichev

What new trends have appeared in modern theater?

Theater is not about trends. If trends appear, then the theater is built into the ideologeme. Each artist feels the reality around him in a special way. And it is this particular view of his that is of interest.

— Do you plan to put something else here or in general somewhere in the near future?

– Yes, all my immediate plans are related to performances in Moscow theaters.

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