As part of the annual Festival of Russian Culture this February The Civic Theatre is delighted to present two outstanding productions by one of Russia’s finest regional theatre companies, Theatre U Mosta. Both works will be presented in Russian with English surtitles.
We sat down for a chat with the famous Theatre U Mosta ahead of their two dates here at the Civic.
Can you give us a history on Theatre U Mosta?
The Authorial Theatre U Mosta was founded in 1988 and literally burst the Perm theatrical world by its bright and non-standard performances. The name U Mosta (At the Bridge) was given due to its proximity to a Kama Bridge, but subsequently the theatre’s name became a symbol of its artistic concept. Plays directed by Fedotov create a bridge between the reality and the other world, every day routine and mysticism, conscientious and intuitive.
The exclusivity of the artistic method is that it is aimed at developing traditions of the great Russian psychological theatre with its schools established by developed by Mikhail Chekov and Jerzy Grotowski. They are systems that work with the development of the actors’ psychophysics, his ability to work with an inner energy and subconsciousness.
It is not a coincidence that the theatre’s motto is “U Mosta is a theatre of Mysticism where everything is real and is the theatre of Realism where everything is Mysticism.”
The repertoire of the theatre is based n a combination of the best examples of Russian and European classics, contemporary foreign drama and productions created across different genres. The mystical world of the theatre is largely created due to its specific literature preferences. The main range of writers is in some way or the other linked to mysticism. Among them are Gogol, Bulgakov, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Stoker. The theatre does not limit itself to staging one play by a particular writer. Quite often it creates series and cycles. Such an approach gives an opportunity to have a comprehensive study of the very essence of the writer’s world, its unique logic. Paradoxes and riddles.
U Mosta has brought the Irish playwright Martin McDonagh to the Russian audience. The Lonesome West won the Golden Mask National Theatre Award in Moscow. In 2010 the theatre received the same award for The Cripple of Inishmaan.
U Mosta has participated in 164 theatre festivals. The theatre had toured India, Egypt, Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey and many cities and towns in Russia.
The mission of the theatre U Mosta is to keep and develop the best traditions of the Russian psychological theatre and to incorporate the concept of a repertoire theatre and a theatrical laboratory.
The classical repertoire includes the Gogol’s cycle (The Gamblers, Marriage, The Government Inspector, Pannochka, Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, The Shoes), the Bulgakov’s cycle (The Master and Margarita, Zoya’s apartment, The Heart of a Dog), Shakespeare’s cycle (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Twelfth Night) and plays by Ostrovsky, Kvitko-Osnovianenko, Chekhov, Erdman, Goldoni, Gorky and Dostoevsky.
Contemporary drama is represented by the McDonagh cycle (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull of Connemara, The Lonesome West, the Cripple of Inishmaan, A Behanding in Spokane, The Lieutenant of Irishmore, The Pillowman), plays by Mulluaho, Familari, Bogaev and Koliada.
The musicals “The Star and Death of Joaquino Murietta and The Unona and the Avos play a special part in the theatre’s repertoire. They introduced the vocals and choreography as one of the grounds in the search of new forms. The production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula allowed to experience an interactive hyper atmospheric performance when the audience become a part of the story.
The plans are to expand the repertoire in each category. This approach allows to develop the artistic method, to conduct a research of each playwright and to create a new theatrical language, new principles and acting techniques.
Mysticism plays a special part in selection of plays. It reflects a specific approach to the role of each individual and acts as an artistic method reflecting on subconscious.
Theatre U Mosta is also active in two main streams of its activity. They are regular productions performed at the main stage and taking part in numerous festivals. The theatre takes part in 10 to 12 festival and have 50 to 60 performances on the main stage annually. Every year 6 to 7 new productions are presented. The theatre director Sergey Fedotov conducts seminars and workshops at the festivals. The actors have an opportunity to develop their skills through master classes, lectures and talks with theatrical specialists.
Is there a strong connection with Irish culture and Russian culture? Specifically, in theatre?
We have found a fascinating similarity in the views of the Russians and the Irish and the most striking example of the connection between our countries is the unprecedented popularity in Russian of Those Evening Bells song by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. The song had become a Russian folk song.
The Russian Diaspora in Ireland plays a significant role in bringing the Russian culture and tradition to Ireland. Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies in Trinity College provide courses in the Russian language, brings Russian literature to the Irish people.
Festival of Russian Culture has become an annual feature of the Dublin cultural life since 2010. St.Patrick’s Day Parade has been running in Moscow since 1992 and has developed in St. Patrick’s Cultural week in the past few years.
Theatres and other cultural institutions from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Perm and other cities tour Ireland every year.
Why did you choose Martin McDonagh’s, The Cripple of Inishmaan?
Sergey Fedotov was the first theatre director who spotted a striking similarity between the way of life in a small Irish place and a Russian place in the middle of nowhere. The only difference is that to improve their view of life the characters turn to whisky and not to vodka.
The actors don’t portrait people of certain nationality. Like in Russia, the main entertainment in a place like this is gossiping and films that are shown in the local cinema. Billy who is disabled longs to leave his aunts and the island.
Sergey Fedotov’s interpretation of the play is based on humanity and overall kindness. All rows, fights and brawls are not malicious, they are just friendly slagging. They all live together on the island and that’s that. There is enough evil in the world.
Can you tell Irish audiences about Sergei Fedotov the Director? What is he most famous for?
“For me theatre is an enigma and mystery, a kind of mystical field where actors and views exist in a new and different space. Somewhere beyond things are black and white, there is God and the devil. Everybody makes their choice. I have chosen God. Everybody has a guarding angel. I can say I have one. He guards me and my nearest and dearest. He helps in desperate situations. I am very relaxed. Everything is the way it should be. I am just doing the work of a magician” – Sergey Fedotov
Sergey Fedotov is the director of the Perm Theatre U Mosta, an honoured artist of the Russian Federation, the winner of the Czech National Award, winner of 2 regional cultural awards, winner of the Golden Mask Award, winner of the Russian Government award, winner of the Stroganov award. He became the first foreign director to receive the Czech National Award for The Heart of a Dog production in 2004. He received a Prague News Award in 2006 and received a Juseph Jungman Award on his 50th birthday in January 2011. In 2012 Fedotov received Fedor Volkov Award for his valuable contribution to drama and theatre.
Sergey Fedotov was born in Perm in January 2011. He graduated from the Perm Institute of Art and Culture. He founded the Nytva Youth Theatre Studio which became a forerunner of the theatre U Mosta. Very soon his colourful and innovative productions became known in Perm and beyond. During his service in the army he establishes the first ever army theatre. After the army Fedotov was invited to lecture in the Perm Institute of Culture.
In 1988 the new theatre U Mosta was established. The name U Mosta (At the Bridge) was given due to its proximity to a Kama Bridge, but subsequently the theatre’s name became a symbol of its artistic concept. Plays directed by Fedotov create a bridge between the reality and the other world, every day routine and mysticism, conscientious and intuitive.
The uniqueness of the theatrical method is the combination of the schools of Mikhail Chekhov and Jezy Grotowski. The mysticism is his world outlook. Plays directed by Fedotov can be both comedies and tragedies. The one common thing is the mysticism, the magic and the Deus ex machina. Such an approach reflects the views of the director on the role of theatre, the laws of human lives, the relations between the inner world of a person and the outer world, the fate and the supernatural.
Victor Shraiman, one of the judges of the Golden Mask award highly praised the work of Sergey Fedotov and noted: “It is a very significant and a rare occasion these days when the actors can grasp the director’s idea and perform in such unison. They create a very special world on stage. The actors transform not only their appearance but their inner world too. It is a mystery to me, though I have been in this industry for a long time. The actors put all their hearts in their performances and this appeals to the views and enables them to become more tolerant and forgiving.”
Marina Timasheva, a theatre critic on Radio Svoboda referred to Fedotov as to one of directors who do not use a simple invention of an artistic approach to a play. His productions are 3-dimentional. He is a very mindful reader who can get to the depth of the text and present it through the work of talented actors. The most astonishing is that the cast can show such all the undercurrents of the plays. Only Fedotov can stage McDonagh’s plays in such a way.
Anatoly Smelyansky, chairman of the Golden Mask award noted that there were huge number of regional theatres in Russia, many of them just barely survive, they cannot find their way to the future and have no support. When you see productions of U Mosta you realise what a potential is there. The theatre has it all – a world class director, an amazing repertoire and incredible actors. This theatre is a kind of a lighthouse for regional theatres.
Theatre productions received awards at international festivals, including Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic.
Sergey Fedotov has directed over 190 productions in Russia, 15 productions in Czech Republic and 8 in Poland.
For audiences who haven’t heard about the play ‘Marriage’ can you give us a brief outline of the play?
The play is a phantasmagoria, directed by Sergey Fedotov.
The play is transformed from a comedy to a phantasmagoria with magic, improbable logic and unexpected behaviour of characters. Kochkarev is a devil who performs the devil’s tricks. The ghosts on the stage are both frightening and spellbound. A door of the press opens quietly and Stepan falls into it making no noise. A pale blue face appears in the window, maybe it is a face of a devil himself. Gogol’s mysticism is combined with a painful feeling of loneliness and defencelessness of a human being in the world, in the hardship of life, its temptations and contradictions.
When first performed in 1992, the production was very innovative, breaking all boundaries and limitations. Especially in the final scene when devil Kochkarev falls under ground.
The production received numerous Russian and international awards.
Both plays are being presented as part of the Festival of Russian Culture 2018 – did you know about the strong Russian connection with Ireland?
Business was traditionally one of the main forces of strong relations between our countries. In the 1980s Aeroflot Russian national airline established its base in Shannon.
Russia is the third country outside the EU biggest market after the USA and China. Irish export in 2013 was €230M.
The cultural links between the countries are getting stronger too. Agreements of cooperation, cultural and educational exchange have been signed in the past years.
Russian and Irish universities and institutes provide cooperation since 2007. Charity to Children with Love has been working tirelessly for the last number of years to provide assistance to orphanages in Russia and invite children to visit Ireland on a regular basis.
Both Irish and Russian businesses are interested in investing in the countries’ economies accordingly.
Both plays will be presented in Russian with English surtitles – do you think this will create any barriers for audiences?
We hope that the language will not create a barrier for the audience. The actors are performing in such a colourful and expressive manner that helps to be understood by international audience.
How well does McDonagh’s play translate to Russian?
From a technical point of view the plays don’t produce any difficulties for a translator. However, the Russian language is very rich in words and expressions that could change the emotional context. The most important to understand what the author meant to say, to relate to his world. Some idioms in Russian and in English cannot be translated.
The Festival of Russian Culture marks the end of Russian winter and beginning of spring, why is this significant?
It is a state of change, like a bridge. The name of our theatre is U Mosta – At the Bridge. It is significant that we are touring at the same time. The spring brings new life, the sun and the heat, a new cycle and a new development. We welcome the changes. It is very important for us as we are like a piece of Ireland in Perm. Our director is a real fan of your country.
Are you looking forward to performing in the Civic Theatre?
We are delighted to perform in the Civic Theatre Tallaght and would like to thank Michael Barker Caven, Artistic Director, and all the staff for their help in providing this opportunity for us.
How many of you are travelling to Ireland?
There will be 13 actors and support staff coming to Ireland.
What can our audiences expect?
The audience can expect to see amazing performances of the Theatre U Mosta. One of them is Marriage, a play from our classic repertoire. The director tried to portrait the life of the past as close to reality as possible. Fedotov asks his actors to rehearse in the costumes. The costumes are made as a very close replica of the original clothes. The views will be completely immersed in the atmosphere of the play, to see the performance of the actors and to be a part of acting.
The Cripple of Inishmaan creates a lot of emotions. It is not possible to be indifferent to what is going on the stage. It gives the views the vision of a dream and how to achieve it.
Theatre U Mosta creates a live performance, a quest for inspiration and a real theatrical atmosphere.
The audience can find something new and different. It is a Russian theatre, so the Russian sole will be there!
Thank you! – Спасибо!