Catabasis. Demons Premieres at the Cottbus City Theatre in Germany
24 September 2021
Photo by Marlies Kross

Boris Yukhananov's production Catabasis. Demons premieres on September 25 at the Cottbus City Theatre in Germany. Below we publish an announcement on, and a report from German television.

According to the organizers of this new production, they are now completing work on a project that began exactly a year ago and was intended to consist of two parts. Part One was to have included a series of actions and performances, thematically developing individual motifs and themes from Dostoevsky’s novel, Demons, in a modern urban environment while employing students of art departments of German universities and higher schools. But this aspect of the project was not feasible during a pandemic. The second part — a staging of Catabasis. Demons on the stage of the Cottbus City Theatre — was successfully completed, despite all the quarantine restrictions.

Aside from Boris Yukhananov, the team creating Catabasis. Demons/Catabasis. Dämonen included several artists from the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre: composer Dmitri Kourliandski, designer and set designer Stepan Lukyanov, costume designer Anastasia Nefyodova, choreographer Andrei Kuznetsov-Vecheslov, and dramaturg and translator Olga Fedyanina.

The performance was created in cooperation with the State Theatre of the City of Cottbus. Dmitri Kourliandski wrote some 30 choral numbers especially for the production, which are performed by the theatre's opera chorus. The chorus conductor, Christian Mobius, at the suggestion of Boris Yukhananov, became one of the characters in the play. Along with professional performers, a group of performers from Cottbus also participate in the performance.

Boris Yukhananov on the production:

Demons is staged often, it  is one of Dostoevsky's most adaptable texts. But almost all these adaptations follow the same path: directors turn the novel into a play. Ours is a theatrical staging. Dostoevsky himself did not write plays, he wrote novels. And we turn to Demons not with the intent of making a play out of it. We do not perform this novel, we play with it. We can afford to do that, because this novel is a fulfilled prophecy. In it Dostoevsky fully predicted the entire twentieth century, with all its catastrophes. And since this prophecy came true, that is, belongs to the past, the novel is a completed, finished story. You can take it as a complete whole and play with it in its entirety. This playfulness has certain rules and laws. Or, to be more precise, it has an underlying essence, something of a "tale of origin." Our playing with Demons unfolds in the Garden of Eden. Paradise is fond of holidays and theme parties. For one of these parties, God chooses Hell as the theme. Angels must play demons. The genre of our performance is Hell's games in paradise. God Himself assumes the role of Conductor, for this is the only role worthy of Him. Meanwhile, everyday life situations, fragments of a modern urban landscape representing the real Hell today, form the background for these games. Only this Hell is wordless, frozen, and cold.

There is one more special participant in our game Artificial Intelligence, the Neural Network, that is, a new deity born in the XXI century. Artificial intelligence, for which all previous history and culture is nothing more than a set of numbers and algorithms, is God’s co-author in this production. Voices and music are born from the dialogue with the Neural Network: the Neural Network reads Dostoevsky's texts and develops them at its discretion. In this case, I myself act as if on behalf of the Neural Network. If the Conductor in our production is fit for the role of God, then the Neural Network suits the role of director.

Original source