THE UZBEKJoseph Beuys Theatre and Sakharov Centre, Moscow
Эксперимент / спектакль
A first-hand documentary solo performance by a young author about the cunning and senseless bureaucratic mechanism of immigration agencies in Russia.
Talgat Batalov was born in Tashkent, and though his blood is a mixture of Russian, Tatar and who knows what else, in his passport, he is registered as "Uzbek". With this passport, he had to go to hell and back in order to obtain Russian citizenship and avoid being drafted into the Russian army. How did he do this? he had to leave his parents’ apartment and automatically cease to be a citizen of Uzbekistan, register in a remote village near Tver, get access to the local passport office for a bribe and renew his registration regularly. Moving around the audience, seated in a close square on the stage, Batalov gives them his real documents to hold, and we’re shocked by what is written on them. But he can’t go anywhere without those papers, so the author asks the audience to return his battered documents to him after the show.
From the subject of papers, the performance turns to the subject of national identity, which the false "Uzbek" Batalov has problems with. Human rights activists, who he asked for an explanation, turn out to be demagogues, while real Uzbeks are beaten and abused on the streets of Moscow. And the final shots of an old black and white film about friendship among Soviet peoples reflects only nostalgia, not the truth.
I am now standing in front of you performing the play only thanks to the fact that once my Russian grandfather and my great-grandmother, who fled from Kharkov during the war and travelled across the country were received and fed by Uzbeks. An Uzbek family gave them shelter, and they survived. And it means that in a certain sense, I am alive, thanks to Uzbeks. It is a very simple, even a sentimental statement, but it is really so.
Talgat Batalov, interview to Bolshoi Gorod
Batalov wrote a play about himself – an actor and director from Tashkent, who at home worked at the famous Ilkhom Theater led by Mark Weil. In Uzbekistan, he was regarded as a Russian, while in Russia he is considered to be Uzbek. His performance is a documentary stand-up, a unique experience for our theater of an actor telling a story about his own fate, making his monologue in the first person, and speaking to the audience without external effects.
A green Uzbek passport with a long-forgotten "nationality" section, an Uzbek registration certificate, a declaration of renouncing the citizenship of Uzbekistan - all these documents are sent along the rows, for the audience to feel to the touch the personal biography of the performance author.
Talgat, whom one feels like calling by his first name, the more so as he is the only hero of the performance, lets us touch his innermost, exposing what is actually seldom shown even to closest friends. There is a desire to share something very important in it, and also a feeling of insecurity and a need to open up to another person.
THE UZBEK is more like a documentary transferred to the space of a theater, or a journalistic article with elements of an essay adapted for the stage, but not a theatre performance.