Why the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre Unveiled Two Pinocchios in One
Lyudmila Bredikhina | Vedomosti | 26 November 2019Original

The entire company performs. Observers of Yukhananov's theatrical explorations have waited 33 years for Pinocchio. It finally arrived, and there's not just one.

The PinoTeam

The notion of new-processualism, which Yukhananov has promoted in his theatre for several decades, matched easily with playwright Andrei Vishnevsky's “Pinomythology,” which he has worked on for those same several decades. There are good reasons for this ease: Andrei and Boris studied together under Anatoly Efros and Anatoly Vasilyev, they had a common addiction to mysterial theatre, and often worked together. Both believe that mythological time is as active as ever, and that the creation of man continues apace with the participation of internal angels, demons and external deities. Both try to make this participation visible and spectacular.

The main forces of the Yukhananov team participate in the theatricalization of this new myth: composer Dmitri Kourliandski, costume designer Anastasia Nefyodova, set designer Yuri Kharikov, and choreographer Andrei Kuznetsov-Vecheslov. The work of another Anatoly Vasilyev student, the Venetian Alessio Nardin, a teacher working with commedia dell'arte masks, played an important role in Pinocchio.

This new theatrical mini-series contains everything that we love the Electrotheatre for - visual sensations involving the elements of fire, water, air and earth, stage storms, inhuman passions, theatre magic and alchemy, archaic and a technical prowess that is unthinkable for Moscow. If the ancient mystagogues had the same opportunities to influence the secret worlds as does the Electrotheatre, we, "a tribe of creatures blessed with noses, but deprived of reason," would now live in some other world.

Why Everything Doubles

Two Pinocchios sweetly romp around together on stage. They chirp like two birds, repeating each other's words. Alongside them simultaneously are their two dads, two Crickets, two Birdies, two great directors named Mangiafuoco (something like game projections of Yukhananov himself) and other characters acting in tandems. In fact, the situation of a theatre within the theatre is a doubling in itself. This bifurcation is confusing for a while, but then you humble yourself and find explanations. There are two of everything.

The first explanation is mythological. People-pagliacci, according to Vishnevsky-Yukhananov, exist between two worlds. The upper world belongs to the majestic Creators, the lower one conceals ambiguous dregs. Life boils and bubbles in between. Angels fall from above in streams and become pagliacci. In the median world, everything is very dramatic. If we are to believe the text of the play, one is born dead, like Pinocchio, and life, your twin, is born later, and is forced to catch up with you. The thought is disturbing. The topic of doubling essences in Pinocchio either leads away into time immemorial, or gives rise to such disturbing myths. A lively holy woman and a half-naked witch unequivocally refer to the ancient Madonna/Harlot pair, but the story of the theatre director Mangiafuoco, united in two guises, ends with two mutually exclusive relevant manifestos.

The second explanation is purely theatrical. In addition to the invisible worlds of myth, requiring if not faith, then trust, there is a real world of theatre with endless interpretations of the same plot, routine rehearsals, and the daily multiplication and burning-out of essences.

The doubling of speech and mises-en-scene in Pinocchio quickly emerges as the production's supporting structure, the action is repeatedly able to return to what has already happened on stage. An event will move in circles, constantly increasing itself, and dazzling with its luxurious visuals. That is how Yukhananov's new processual theatre works.

“The Little Barbarian”

he Pinocchio of Vishnevsky and Yukhananov is a cute, dim-witted child, its wooden head equipped with an unbiased child's gaze and the mouth of a baby. That is precisely why he, gentle and touching, innocent and inquisitive, is damned as a barbarian by the great director Mangiafuoco (Two). The trouble is that, after being exposed to theatre, Pinocchio immediately and passionately falls in love with it. But he does so not according to the old law whereby spectators always knew their place, instead he comes to love it as his own life. He instantly forgets about school and the alphabet, and simply leaps out on stage – there now is nothing here but him and his short life. At this moment, the action loses its holy qualities, and the high theatre, having survived the test of centuries, becomes a strange laboratory of infantility. These little barbarians, riding an elevator, inspect all the floors of the high theatre, and although they still do not know what the “circle of ideas” are or why theatrical tales are wound so fancifully these days, their very presence alone changes Mangiafuoco's theatre. Famous myths are transformed into reborn stories. Jekyll and Hyde, or, the Cadaver Dying! Don Juan, or, The Mad Lotus! Salome, or The Reality Princess! The latter suddenly comes out of a trance in the middle of a mad dance and, gazing around wildly, asks her partner: “Who are you?!” You must see how he answers her. It is very funny. The characters of Vladimir Korenev, the very one from the myth of the amphibian man, now an Old Asian Man and a parody of Brezhnev, also wakes up in wild, new circumstances.

The visible worlds at the Electrotheatre not only penetrate you, they philosophize and scold. Here, a brutal character named Meat is capable of offering a wise, Tolstoyan thought: “He has acted so shameful that he will never forgive you for it,” while Pierrot and Harlequin, doubled many times over, in six detailed examples, show how their service radically changes those that they serve.

Before Pinocchio's appearance in the Yukhananov/Mangiafuoco Theatre, there is no place for topicality of any kind. And so the great Creators descend from the upper floors to discuss the vital problems of today's theatre with two children, who, complaining about silly problems such as splinters in their behinds, are able to give important advice.


The Rose of Light and the “Angelic Slaughterhouse”

“You want to connect the worlds, little man, but you don’t know the most important word,” Mangiafuoco tells the kids. I don’t remember which Mangiafuoco says this, although they are not at all alike. One (Yury Duvanov) in a suit and black glasses, a sort of wolf from Wall Street, repeatedly offers with cocaine-fed passion to burn Pinocchio and half the company along with him. The other (Oleg Bazhanov) is kinder and more proper in his speech, but very strange in appearance. This acting duet cannot be missed.

“Authority?” Pinocchio amiably chirps in response. “Art? Reality? Life? Are you talking about these important words?

“No,” the great directors answer. “You don't know the word balance.”

A cherished formula is uttered in the director's tense dialogue with himself: "Theatre is a dialogue of mutually exclusive ideologies." Naturally, other theatrical ideologies are not recognized at the Electrotheatre. The rose of light, the ravenous rafflesia, the whirlwinds of falling angels - this is all one theatre. The satirical scene about Brezhnev and headless Independence is completely different. The ecstasy of the commedia dell'arte is the third. And six fried eggs with bacon on stage is a fourth (by the way, rare is the season that goes by without such eggs). The list goes on. The balance here explains much if it doesn't confuse you utterly. While one Mangiafuoco offers a theatre of balance, the other utterly destroys the new generation of theatre.

What, in turn, do the children advise? To fall in love with pagliacci, to trust falling and fallen angels. The Pinocchios' infantile advice and their childish fear of the "angelic slaughterhouse" today seem perhaps more relevant than many theatrical problems and the evolution of theatrical generations. “Burn half the company!” becomes the reality of every renovated theatre, from the Gogol Center to the Moscow Art Theatre.

In Pinocchio, the Electrotheatre implements a deliberately utopian proposal to find a niche for every actor without having to burn anyone - the troupe demonstratively performs in its entirety. The parenthetic tragicomedy about the drug-theatre and the "junkie-pagliacci" is played by company veterans in such a way that when Tatyana Ukharova merely calls out some rifle's number, a spectator might weep.