AN OLD WOMANFeatr, Moscow
Set Designer: Katya Bochavar
The performance is nominated for the “Golden Mask” in the “Experiment” nominations. Two figures participate in the experiment of the director, Feodor Pavlov-Andreevich. They are Daniil Kharms, a great Russian writer and poet, the forerunner of European absurdist authors, who died of hunger in the first year of the war in a madhouse, and Stepanida Borisova from Yakutia , a drama actress and performer of authentic throat singing known in the West much better, than Kharms. Kharms's “Old woman” is a phantasmagoria in which the hero stays on the verge of life and death, fantasy and reality. It all starts when a strange old woman comes to the hero’s place and immediately dies there, the person tries to get rid of the corpse, but it disappears as suddenly as it has appeared: it is stolen.
This surprising, strange story, similar to no other one, has something in common with “the Crime and punishment” by Dostoevsky and Pushkin’s “Queen of spades”. The director, Feodor Pavlov-Andreevich and a modern artist, Katya Bochavar, visualized the monstrous ghost of the dead old woman, having put the actress painted white and wrapped up in a white shroud on a three-meter pedestal. It reminds either a mummy, or a pagan idol, the so-called stone image. Performing the text, the actress uses all conceivable and inconceivable modulations of the human voice, plunging the audience into a laugh, then into a trance, then in sacred horror.
Staroukha (The Old Woman) is only novel by my favorite Russian writer, poet, playwright and visionnary Daniil Kharms.
Kharms starved to death in 1940 in hospital at one of Stalin's prison camps.
Stepanida Borissova is one of the most outstanding shamanic singers in the entire world.
Additionally, she's a classically trained actress, as well as Russia's only Yakutian movie star.
Stepanida is a talking sculpture, created by my great friend and a long time collaborator Katya Bochavar.
She is placed on a 4-meter pedestal swathed in white. I'm seated on the same type of pedestal, only wrapped in black.
Staroukha (The Old Woman), Stepanida speaks both Russian and Yakutian, although she mainly sings.
I act as her conductor and co-singer. For some moments, I become her voice, while she merely mouths the sounds.
In the production Stepanida Borisova simultaneously plays a dead old woman, the author and his interlocutors — and she does all this being almost immobile: she sits on the chair fastened to it with white sheets. Sometimes you may hear the voice of the director and concurrently a prompter who stays invisible at the same time. He conducts the show and also participates in it doing amazing things with the text by Kharms.
Modulations of Borisova’s voice, her unusual accent, mask rigid miming, and sculpture-like movements of her arms deepen the impression of this constant being on the verge, of the captivating duality. It seems that we really happen to be on the threshold of the world where a dead woman can linger in your house, where one can tell you the time giving a glance at a wall clock without hands, where a suitcase with a dead body can be stolen from under your nose and where, finally, the figure of the author is as fantastical as the characters created by him.
10 m x 10 m
FOR AUDIENCE OF
70 - 150
SET UP TIME
4 – 6 hours