AN UNCONTEMPORARY CONCERTMeyerhold Centre, Moscow
Участник программы «Russian Case» Фестиваля 2016 года
Director: Viktor Ryzhakov
Viktor Ryzhakov and his students at the Moscow Art Theatre School created AN UNCONTEMPORARY CONCERT using the increasingly popular verbatim technique. A few years ago verbatim as a method of documentary theatre was introduced at the acting faculty as a compulsory element of actors’ training. In AN UNCONTEMPORARY CONCERT the students of Viktor Ryzhakov look at the older generation with the eyes of very young people. The young actors imitate old people in their speech and demeanour as well as their delayed reactions, which is sometimes funny and sometimes sad to watch. We see the old people struggle with the imprisonment of their active mind in a failing body. The actors present a whole range of attitudes - from irony to empathy. What is essential for them is to convey a different way of thinking, the spirit of time as preserved by the old people. At the same time, they are telling us that it is impossible to share, understand and assimilate their experience. This message is expressed through funny parodies on films that were extremely popular in Stalin`s time and that in no way can be taken seriously today. The actors are doing their best to imitate the stars of the 1930s, with their special manners and gestures; they do so, using these stars as a documentary template in a verbatim play. And this makes the audience laugh and cry at the same time, as they realize that this time has gone forever.
AN UNCONTEMPORARY CONCERT is about old age and youth. About youthful old age and eternal youth. Verbatim approach is not something out of the ordinary nowadays. In this production twenty year old students turn into old people. A risky experience, and students will have to face the life of their characters on an extremely sharp edge… Young old people, one by one, go into combat, into the lives that have already been lived…
Right from the very beginning the show refuses to be smooth. On the contrary. How do the young see the old? Young age is impudent and cruel, sometimes even cynical. Given to laughter and derisive. When you are young, the world seems to be extremely funny. They laugh and they have the right for it – the right given by their youth. It is their time!
Old people in the production walk in stooping, straight lines. There is an impression of a waxwork exhibition or a cabinet of curiosities – twenty year olds mock, turn into caricatures the behavior and habits of their characters. Hunchbacked, grunting, deaf or hard of hearing, having lost the remnants of their memory, blind and half-blind, without exception toothless, mumbling, snuffling, coarse, croaky, speaking in a low husky voice and then slipping into a falsetto. The young make fun of the old with all their might. Old age is truly a funny thing.
Times change and intersect in a wink of an eye. Flights into the past and comebacks are precipitous, like flaring-up memory clips. Farce and caricature are fused by Ryzhakov with lyrics. Maestro knows what he is up to, what he is doing to the hearts of the audience. He is keeping watch over man. And his students are also keeping this watch. No more cackling in the audience, you don’t hear chuckles any more. A blessed silence comes, the kind of silence that unveils the faces of young actors – clean, fresh, dear, sincere… And the faces of the audience noticeably changed in some ways…