«Plays international» London, November 2005 г.

John Freedman in Moscow

... «Romeo and Juliet», a production of the Pyaty, or Fifth, Theatre of Omsk, is one of many modern reworkings of classical plays or myths by an author known simply as Klim (real name Vladimir Klimenko). Legendary as an innovative director, Klim in recent years has increasingly devoted his time to writing plays. Employing chiseled, transparent verse, he has reexamined texts ranging from Moliere, Pushkin and Shakespeare to Carlos Casteneda. As a writer, he is intent upon revealing what elements of the human experience remain eternal; what aspects of any familiar story continue to resonate in the modern world; and, not least of all, how does one goes about creating a text that actors can speak naturally on stage. A traditionalist at heart, Klim often reminds listeners that in an age when the key to realism has been lost, the most radical avant-garde that can be imagined is true realistic art. All of this works are deeply philosophical and highly theatrical. Klim has found a soul mate in Alexei Yankovsky, a director from St. Petersburg who often stages Klim s plays. Yankovsky mounted Romeo and Juliet with a group of students in Omsk and achieved a powerful, moving piece of theatre. Mixing in song and dance and ad-libbed satire, he tapped into the tale s youthful energy while revealing the internal mechanics of the progression from carefree innocence to tragic knowledge.

Yankovsky offers numerous subtle signs and commentaries that add new layers of meaning to those provided by Klim. As the audience files into the hall, paying no attention to the actors already on stage, one figure blows a horn. It is, one might say, a clarion call that no one hears, and, as such, is a warning that something again is about to happen to Romeo, Juliet and those around them, although again nothing will be done to stop it. At intermission, the actors step forward and begin an active song and dance routine. The spectators, then, are forced into the unusual, and for many, uncomfortable, situation of having to walk out on actors who are doing their best to entertain them. This would appear to reveal Yankovsky s ironic attitude to the eternal struggle of theatrical styles it is as if he is saying, Yes, go ahead and walk out on the entertainment, and then when you come back, I will give you a good dose of theatre with a purpose.

Klim, as is his wont, digs down into the characters we know least. Paris here becomes a full-fledged individual whose tragedy is every bit the equal of the others . Sampson and Friar Laurence, too, are given tangibly new and significant points of view. This can change the whole architectonics of the play at times. When Juliet meets Paris in Laurence s cell, she runs to him and embraces him warmly. This is not the action of a girl who doesn t care about the shame she soon will bring upon this man, but is a sign that she is begging his forgiveness in advance. Shortly before, in one of Paris s moving monologues, he has noted that there is no point in being right anymore. In a similar fashion, Tybalt absolves Romeo of guilt as he dies: I sought death myself, he says. These simple phrases, uttered simply, have the ring of both wisdom and modernity. They make this most woeful of all stories spring to life with new insight and unexpected power.