LEAR IS REHEARSING DEATH
MEYERHOLD CENTER AND JOSEPH BEUYS THEATRE, MOSCOW
Director – Georg Genoux
A play by Lyubov Mulmenko
Video artist – Denis Klebleyev
Performance guide – Alexei Yershov
Actor - Viktor Rotin
Duration – 1 h, 30 min
Age restriction – 12+
The action of the Mulmenko/Genoux production is set in an actors’ retirement home (this type of seniors complex was invented by great Russian actress Maria Savina early last century). This documentary staging is focused on an old man who imagines himself King Lear and tries to model his life upon the story of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The old man Viktor possesses an i-pad with monologues from Lear. Viktor has children whom he had anathematized a long time ago. He had divided his legacy unfairly. Although he has several flats he has chosen to live in the retirement home, one of the reasons being that there is an alarm button under his bed and he can press it any moment he feels he is in danger.
The intricate interlacing of not an ordinary man’s life and the Shakespearean myth are woven into the texture of the play. Things invented get mixed up with real happenings and the reality is rectified by the mythology. The real objects holding the memories of the body, videos from the retired actors home, the male character’s monologues being half rational and half crazy eventually plunge the viewers into another person’s private life integrated with one of the world theatre’s greatest stories.
“I can’t think of another production in the genre of verbatim that would penetrate so deep into the soul of a specific person. In the context of modern theatre this production looks exceptionally disturbing and somewhere half way between the beginning and the end the content starts to prevail over the form and with all the rejection of the character one can’t help feeling deeply for him. After I left I was crying for about 40 minutes – such was mu excitement about the performance and about the fact that it was the last performance of Beuys Theatre. The courage with which this elderly man having long developed his very personal notion of the beautiful firstly dared open himself so widely to the audience and secondly to allow the young director and playwright turn his work into a piece that seemed far from his own visions and beliefs”
Nina Belenitskaya, playwright
The dominating motif of “King Lear” is not so much the loss of connections between the history, the man and his milieu. This problem is the motif of social illusions and expectations, as well as of the moral ideals that all too often cannot be translated into reality.
In “Lear Is Rehearsing Death” the action on stage incorporates documentary texts, namely the words of the actors who have long left the stage and are on the way out at the Retired Actors’ Home. Their testimonies reveal the nostalgia for the unrealized ideas but they also constitute actualization of their memories. The staging employs interactive technologies that make for each member of the audience not only to witness the happenings on stage but also to directly take part in the performance.
State Centre of Modern Arts
“Lear Is Rehearsing Death” is Viktor Rotin’s very explicit, maybe too explicit, self-revelation. How does it feel to stand on stage and confess that you love nobody, that your son wishes you die and your daughter is ferreting in your pockets for money? Being fully aware that it would be too hard for an actor to play an autobiographic mono performance (which would seem to be only logical), Georg Genoux uses installation with Rotin being one of the exhibits thereof. The action unfolds in the very compact space of the black room of the Meyerhold Centre. There is no stage or traditional seats. The acting space is shaped by the four walls hung with photographs, pictures, merit certificates and other personal items of the actor. The absence of seats underscores that the audience is an alien element in the life-story of this man. All through the show the audience hears Rodin’s powerful recorded voice and his I-pad videos illustrate his life in the Retired Actors’ Home.
Yekaterina Anokhina, Ekran I Scena
This is a very intimate verbatim staging, a documentary show, a radio play… It is hard to define its style or genre. Instead of the sets there is the installation of the things that belong to the protagonist. There is no acting on stage; only the videos illustrating the life of the real man. Instead of an actor reading the text there is the voice-over recounting the man’s life story.
“Lear Is Rehearsing Death” is a study of the life of the particular person – Viktor Y. Rotin who lives in the Retired Actors’ Home and who is convinced of his kinship with King Lear. Indeed, there are quite a few parallels: the conflict with the children, share-out of property, possession of some estate, the trial by poverty in the past. Now Rotin has two purposes in life: to take revenge on the posterity and to stage a perfect “King Lear”.