THE SEAGULLSatirikon Theatre, Moscow
One of the sensations of last year is Yuri Butusov's almost 5 hour-long production about theatre that devours its own children like a monster. The Director speaks about it directly from the stage. He is the entire evening on stage: dancing like a crazy one, performing the role of fire, opening the show and closing each act out of four. The performance lasts for more than four hours. Like with all directors approaching the age of 50 Butusov's heart burns: they spent their most fruitful years waiting to be called to make a production, they had no chance of managing a theatre, occupied by "old masters of the stage" or creating their own theaters. In THE SEAGULL Butusov expresses his opinion on everything at once: betrayal, imagination, which is worth than slavery, fear of one's own ineptitude. This is not only a performance about the theatre – it is also an anthology of the theatre. Psychological theatre is followed by expressionism, which is made fun of, a parody is followed by self-parody, the same scene is played in different ways, including the final – and it is worth suffering almost five hours in the chair for the sake of the final scene: Butusov always holds up the main scene for the end.
Such hyper-statements embracing everything one can say about himself and about the world are usually made in the very beginning of the one’s journey. Quite on the contrary in this staging Butusov is trying to overcome, or compress or sum up his fifty years of life experiences. But it is precisely the theatre of the young that manifests itself in this SEAGULL that abounds in volatile associations, improvisations and weird obsessions. Butusov unambiguously asserts that theatre boils down essentially to acting and confronting fate rather than to making a social, political, philological or any other statement (…) The passionate and fervent modulations in this production are further enhanced by the fact that it is dedicated to Russian film star Valentina Karavayeva who spent the twenty years after the car crash in isolation using an amateur camera to film the great plays, first and foremost the monologues of Nina Zarechnaya.
In this production the five actors and five actresses perform Chekhov’s plays repeatedly swapping roles as though in the course of the rehearsals the director was experimenting with various treatments of the play and its characters. What kind of Nina or Arkadina did he want? Younger or older? Should Treplev be jazzy or anxious? The text of the play was cut considerably down to the key or proverbial scenes. But each of the scenes is played two, three, four times with different actors and in different interpretations. The director seems to have been asking himself: Did he love her or not? Did she love him? Did she become a good actress or a gross phony? Some of the scenes look vibrant and fresh; others – quite seem quite run-of-the-mill. But the show goes on. Short scenes are effectively accentuated by loud and rhythmical music. One has the impression that the performance rushes on recklessly and is going to fly off the handle.
The Moscow News
Butusov staged this production about himself. It is also about the many productions of THE SEAGULL that have never come out on stage, as well as other stagings that exist only in the minds of directors. It is about “enterprises of great pitch and moment” that “...Lose the name of action…” The stage is a Moloch and the sacrifices made on its altar are not seen by the world. Left after a poet are rough copies. A composer leaves behind unfinished scores, an artist – sketches and drafts. But the ephemeral art of theatre knows no rough copies or sketches. And if unrealized they start bursting the director open from the inside. In Butusov’s case they seem to have broken out and engaged into a frantic round dance on stage.
Yuri Butusov’s production abounds in such incredible freedom, such drive and such degree of openness that seem to have long ceased to exist in the national theatre (…) His production asserts that this play mustn’t be stage anymore and at the same time that one just can’t help staging it. It is about the throes of creation and the anguish of the artist who is struggling to speak the language of his own, to reach his real self through the layers of falsehood. If you will, it is his own “8 ½”, his declaration of love and hate to theatre – the cruel monster that feeds itself upon human feelings, thoughts and guts and that chews on human lives and spits them out.