Women's songs about the terrible - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/18/2023

Women's songs about the terrible - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/18/2023

The out-of-competition program of the Golden Mask festival - "Mask Plus" - showed two performances about the nature and roots of violence in the patriarchal society of the past and present: "Ozor" by Elizaveta Bondar from the Mirny Theater and "Inside Out" by Jemma Avetisyan from the Novosibirsk "Old House". Marina Shimadina considers it symbolic that both performances are staged by female directors.

“Mask Plus” this year looped very beautifully: it ended with the play “Ozor” by Elizabeth Bondar, which in many ways “mirrors” the first performance of the program - “The Life of Spiridon Rastorguev” by Philip Gurevich from Nyagan (see "Kommersant" dated March 10). Both here and there are based on the stories of the classics (Shukshin and Mamin-Sibiryak, respectively) about the Russian hinterland, supplemented by modern verbatim - the voices of local residents. Even the heroes of these two performances are called the same - Spiridons, and in both cases they die, faced with a feeling that can hardly be called love - there is simply no such word in their lexicon. They perceive a sudden attraction to someone else's wife as an obsession and do not know any other way to cope with it, except for the primitive one - to come and take it.

But the production of the Mirny Theater looks much darker than the Nyagan one. If Shukshin's hero takes his own life, but still does not dare to kill another person, executes himself, but before that begins to see clearly, then the characters of Mamin-Sibiryak exist in hopeless darkness. Elizaveta Bondar exaggerates the colors to the limit and plunges the scene into darkness, snatching from it one or another figure with a beam. The director's handwriting is very recognizable here: rigid editing, color monochrome, grotesque images-masks that the actors mold with the help of characteristic movements, as well as voice modulations.

The performance is generally built musically. Composer Nikolai Popov with the group "Komon" created not just a score, but a soundtrack, where, in addition to musical instruments and Siberian tunes, strange night whispers and screams, horses neighing and the whistle of a whip sound. In this disturbing environment, the story of Siberian settlers is developing, living according to the inviolable rules of house building. Cruelty here is considered not just the norm, but a guarantee of the survival of the clan, the family. The plot, reworked by playwright Ekaterina Avgustenyak, partly repeats the collision of Ostrovsky's Thunderstorm: an imperious mother-in-law, a weak-willed husband, a young woman who for the first time felt excitement in her blood. With the difference that here the young heroine became a victim not only of male harassment, but also, as they would say now, “victimblaming” - they say, she herself is to blame for why she built her eyes. However, violence breeds other violence - and in the finale, the stunner Spirka himself will fall under the millstones that he launched.

But the most interesting thing is how in the finale of the performance the director throws a bridge from the past to the present, offering the modern inhabitants of Mirny, a small town in Yakutia, to speculate about the fate of the heroes, about the customs of that time. Much of them seems savage to today's viewers, and yet it turns out that social foundations still largely determine a person's life.

This is also evidenced by Karina Besolti's play "Inside Out", created in 2021 as part of the first season of the Discipline modern drama laboratory at the Stary Dom Theater. This text brings up the painful and taboo topic of domestic violence. And although the action of the play takes place in the Caucasus, in a deliberately conservative society, it is clear that this problem concerns more than one region. A playwright from Vladikavkaz tells the story of a young girl who investigates the suicide of a married sister in a small village and encounters a closed society where the preservation of traditions and morality turns into arbitrariness: bride kidnapping is still considered the norm, and female “no” is a form of coquetry.

Director Jemma Avetisyan and artist Alexander Mokhov placed the actors in cramped cells of boxes where it is impossible to straighten up to their full height, where they have to constantly bend down - just as the characters have to constantly fit into the Procrustean bed of generally accepted norms. Besolti's play is saved from the straightforwardness of a social pamphlet by a detective beginning and unexpected plot twists. And although some of the motives of this story remain not fully understood, but the main character, alone challenging the patriarchal society, is somewhat similar to the female directors themselves, raising questions that are “inconvenient” for our traditionally male theatrical world.

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