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Culture news, 23.07.2004 13:44

Performing good and pure


By Olga Kalashnikova



The summer doesn't usually have many treats in store for theatre-goers - the majority of theatres are closed until mid September. Here's where the Molodyozhny Theatre makes a pleasant exception, with its doors opening from the beginning of August.

The season opens with Alexei Tolstoy's famous play "The Swallow" ("Kasatka"), which has become the theatre's "trademark" production. Its invigorating portrayal of the search for love and happiness was deemed worthy of nomination for the State Prize, and at the first International Festival on the Volga in 2000 it was awarded both the spectators' prize and the prize for best production. Acclaimed not only in St. Petersburg and Moscow, it travelled as far as the International Theatre Festival 2002 in Kiev.

Molodyozhny Theatre often stages works of classical authors, such as Ostrovsky's "Love laces" ("Lubovnie kruzheva"), Shakespeare's "Othello", and Babel's "Cries from Odessa" ("Kriki iz Odessi"). The aim, however, is to present classic art accessibly in the real, contemporary world.

"Our director looks to adapt serious material to the a mass audience, at the same time never transgressing the borders of art," explains the manager of the Molodyozhny Theater, Maria Dolmatova.

The theater space is small, there is no stage as such. Using reduced scenery actors seek to involve the audience, make spectators part of the spectacle: a unique chamber atmosphere where feelings acted are closely felt by all present.

Even the first visit to the theater produces an impression that you have already been here, everything strikes as familiar. Here, you feel at home, and can trust those around you.

Molodyozhny Theater's company consists of 40 actors who often vary their roles. "Every new part is another life, and you have to live it differently. It is what every artist enjoys," say some of the actors. The company boasts many genuine masters, eminent artists, holders of prizes and titles. In addition, there are many outstanding young actors who have already won prizes such as the "Petersburg Debut".

Naturally, nobody can tell about the theater better than the actors themselves. "I have grown up in this theater and made a great amount of friends here. We have a warm, kind company. We have a great leader in Simyon Spivak - and that's so important for a theater," says Alla Oding, an actress at the theater.

Indeed, a good director is vital. It is he who sounds the key, chooses plays, approaches and ideas. And the Molodyozhny Theater is rightly proud of its director Spivak, who arrived in 1989 and introduced a new, lyrical note in the theater. He started an era of profound, yet accessible lyrical and philosophical performances. The troupe themselves consider Spivak's style to be characterized by a subtlety of spirit, the importance of the non-rational in man, and an absence of restrictions in form. In every performance he raises the eternal questions: how can one live a life and realize one's ideals, how to love and be honest, how to achieve harmony with one's own self, and should it happen exactly at the sunset of one's life, as is the case with the main hero of "Cries from Odessa"?

At the theater, a phrase has come into use: "Spivak always advocates for his heroes". No matter where they find themselves or how they behave, the director tries to make the audience really listen to them and, if possible, understand them. This does not mean that actors simplify or popularize their heroes - there is enough irrelevance, non-entities or just plain trash in everyday life as it is. What is involved then, is a kind of hope and a sturdy positivism.

"Spivak is capable of finding something bright and good in the most hopeless and sombre situation," summarises the manager, Dolmatova. That is Spivak's special merit. Even in tragedies, he seeks to leave the spectator with an urge to find hope and believe in the goodness of man. It almost leaves one light-headed, wanting to daydream and downplay life's imperfection.

The full house at almost all performances speak for itself: people appreciate the work Molodyozhny Theater is putting out, because deep at heart, perhaps people just long for the good and the pure.

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