Adrenalin and tenderness over an abyss of dialectics

The virtual world of writer Vladimir Korotkevich — a cult masterpiece “Wild Hunt of King Stakh” — is played at the National Academic Theatre named after Yanka Kupala as a psychological detective story
Amateurs of bright, I’d say, even sophisticated and stylish literature letters still devour the novella. Just like it used to be in the 1960-1970s when the book was first printed as part of a magazine and then printed as an edition the masterpiece deserves.

Entering deeper dungeons of the writer’s world, you can find anything to stir your imagination and feelings: intrigues, poetry and imagery, philosophical discourse and a tensely packed and rapidly changing plot. Naturally, the mixture is an adrenaline, without which literature “food” would taste like a dietic course without salt and spices. The same applies to theatre food.

The Kupala Theatre’s performance has enough adrenalin: it has everything a detective story must have such as an ambience of secrets and mystic knowledge, chases and exposure of a crime, which traces take viewers back to previous centuries. The point is that 200 years ago rich gentleman Yanovski sold out his blood brother King Stakh. Before death the latter cursed the entire Yanovski kin up to the twentieth generation. A legend masterly plotted by Korotkevich to tell viewers about how during investigation of the curse history young ethnographer Andrei Beloretski falls in love with the last of the Yanovskis — Nadezhda Yanovskaya, who is cursed and doomed to die. Of course, our hero in shining armour should save everyone and bring the culprits to the glare of the truth.

The performance begins. The scenography (by Viktor Timofeyev) could make a story of its own, as it is most beautiful. A wooden scaffold is the plane of the reality, where the life is acted. The space “breathes”: the planks move, rise, and arms stretch out of the fissures. Newly born ghosts and shadows break out from the dark to get life on the scaffold… The scene is filled with servants, guests of the castle, “wild hunt” hunters — featureless, unified, a ruck, a background for the central characters — Yanovskaya and Beloretski. Even the stairs has its role of going either to the past or unexplored outer space. Savitski’s dramatisation and direction is supposed to make people feel eerie with this abyss of hints to unimaginable powers. I will never forget the emerald light of the soffits. Like some universe eyes, they dispassionately watch people create their own hell and paradise on earth. You hear mystic sounds, floodlights waving their canvass. “The swamp” slurps and squelches in a very realistic way, winding up the ambience of secrets and scare (music by Pavel Zakharenko).

Watching the play is not boring, but exciting. The director (the very same dramatist) skilfully wraps his message to the viewers (love, kindness, sympathy) in theatre effects. It seems, the notion of “theatre is a teacher of life” still holds true for Vladimir Savitski. But the director teaches viewers accurately, he demonstrates a good taste and grasp of style as well as demands of modern individualised life. A credit where the credit is due: he withholds from self-expression and counts on actors in the showy tricks.

Savitski puts forward love as the main idea of the play, as an evil-fighting force. The idea of love, alas, is not transcendent. To tell you the truth, the director does not go deep in his studies of evil and good. Deciphering Korotkevich, the director states: evil in its pure form does not exist. It is people that produce evil. Therefore, evil forces in the play are represented by people, who due to some reasons became unhappy, envious, heartless and vindictive. Though it is strange, one can pity them and be generous towards them. Together with Anna Khitrik, who plays the role of Nadezhda Yanovskaya. “I forgive you”, Nadezhda Yanovskaya says to the housekeeper (played by Yulia Mikhnevich) after the latter throws away her headgear and makes a lustful confession that she wants to be as rich as her mistress. Well, quite an understandable wish just like the wish of another evil force — library custodian Berman-Gatsevich. What is he, who has thoroughly studied nobility documents and imagined he is a messiah and an instrument to execute Yanovskaya’s verdict? For Savitski Yalin, keeper and manager of the Bolotny family, is an underling, pitiful and filthy executor of another man’s will. Exactly the image created by Alexander Pavlov. And then at the end of the first act inspirer of the “King Stakh hunt” appears — Dubatovk, Yanovskaya’s uncle. The next of her kin and the adversary. In the end when the wild hunt is done away with, by Jesus, you feel a slight regret the amazing and charming uncle dies (maybe he could turn over a new leaf?) thanks to the mastery of actor Oleg Garbuz, who generates strength and certitude: his character knows what he wants. The director is interested in this Dubatovk, for whom nothing is sweeter than control over locals and the niece.

The director was also lucky to get such a love duet. Anna Khitrik and Roman Podolyako are rising theatre stars. Anyway, reviewers predict great future for the couple. Not without grounds. They artfully played their roles in “Alpine Ballade” by Vasil Bykov directed by the same Savitski. They are busy playing roles in the theatre. What do they do to impress spectators in “Wild Hunt”?

I take a liking to Anna Khitrik every time when I see her playing various roles. I dare assume it is obvious that there is no such actress with such tender attraction, which is seemingly made of thin crystal, in Kupala Theatre. When she speaks, she does so without a great effort but sincerely.
She is smart. She keeps silent, but you know exactly what her character thinks. It seems the director gave Khitrik-Yanovskaya a general direction and unleashed her talent. She even moves beautifully, smoothly and does all the rest with the same beauty: speaks to a rag doll or seeks protection of Beloretski. Khitrik is luckier than Podolyako. Her partner has less text to act and the dramaturgic base of the character is weaker. But the actor still manages to show some psychological credibility. Here he is seen understanding young Yanovskaya’s beauty, here he is amazed by listening to strange things, which happen to her, and here there is light in his eyes, as their feelings are mutual.

The happy end comes natural. It gladdens viewers’ hearts, sparkles an outburst of adrenalin with a shade of tenderness and silence at heart. The substance, which is called soul, is shaken. I don’t know about others, but mine soared to follow the white flapping garments of the heroine, who is now freed from nightmare illusions. You feel like ceasing to think about who is right or wrong in this world or think about the eternal struggle of the good and evil. A feeling, which makes you want to pardon everyone. The theatre bets on it.

by Valentina Zhdanovich
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