CITY DAYChamber Theatre, Voronezh
Monologues of Voronezh residents
Director: Mikhail Bychkov
Set designer: Yury Suchkov, Mikhail Bychkov
A documentary play about Voronezh is based on numerous interviews with residents of the city. Somewhere behind the stage there thunders a salute, the women and men are drawing back with their heads up as if admiring the invisible glow. The holiday with its pompous status is happening somewhere nearby, but here, in the conventional space of urban backyards Voronezh residents talk about their lives and complex relationships with their small motherland.
Actors have collected a lot of material - in the play they included stories of people of different age, professions, and social status. In the memoirs of the older generation one can find changed geography and toponymy of the city, their nostalgia for the old days with dance parties and outdoor picnics. The young people talk about their personal life and their attempts to build up communication with other people and influence the surrounding reality. Monologues are interspersed with songs about Voronezh – their semi-official, para-criminal lyrics ironically contrast with the process of self-identification where the characters of “City Day” are immersed in.
In the last years a number of documentary productions dedicated to various Russian cities and towns have been created. Unlike those previous productions, Mikhail Bychkov’s play is not only about the Voronezh city but more about the loneliness of an urban man. In the monologue of the disabled person who prefers online communication to a real one, in the story of the woman who has lived all her life in a working hostel with her husband and children, or in the story of the veteran’s exhausting wanderings about the state institutions, the city appears as dominating vital power that attracts and throws out at the same time.
Following the widespread theatre trend of urban verbatim, the Voronezh Chamber Theatre created his own documentary production. Paradoxically, it managed to do without a playwright which is the only case registered in Russia.
This is only possible in theatres with one strong will shared by everyone and with the company prone to self-organization. Usually the actors play their own "characters" – the ones they have found themselves in the streets and whom they managed to talk into an interview and open up demonstrating wonders of humanism and will.
In the documentary theatre the art starts with the interviewer’s ethics: his humanistic position, ability to listen, to get imbues with trust for the prototype and afterwards in the performance to stay true to the character. Verbatim realized the feature of theatre as a communicative art – the human ability to listen to another human, and understand a stranger as yourself.
Mikhail Bychkov’s actors showed incredible solidarity. One may only envy the humanitarian and philanthropic character of this performance. It is not only about the duty to love the city which for many actors is not the place where they were born. The production is about love for other people, for the little man despite of his social background...
«Theatre Magazine Blog»
... So, we have got the “day of the city”. Note the double meaning of the title. It is both the name of the annual holiday and a calendar concept. One day in the city is often similar to another. Seen through the lives of different residents, such a day is able to reveal a lot and draw a portrait of the city. If so, there arise a lot of questions. Is the image true to the original? Does it flatter the city residents or is it insulting?...
...On the background wall there is a picture of the city and on the stage there are a group of people carefully and silently watching the fireworks which is an integral element of the City Day celebrations…We do not see the fireworks, only faint colorful glimpses fall down onto the faces of the watching people. The source of the fireworks seems to be quite close, so the whole group of people draws back from it. After the group repeats the backwards movement several times, one can see a metaphor in it.
Over all the stage space there are randomly scattered black boxes in which sound and lighting equipment is usually stored….. Distracting themselves from the salute, all members of the group sit down on the boxes. They sit in uncomfortable, non-stable positions. From time to time everyone steps forward and tells his/her stories. They are all of different age and social position, and their stories are different, and therefore, their speech is individual too...