Classical genre in puppet theatre

Grodno’s Regional Puppet Theatre — Belarus’ oldest theatrical stage — prepares its 100th premiere

By Yelena Stasyukevich

The stage fantasy, based upon Gogol’s Viy — Fearful Revenge, has been written by the theatre’s chief director, Oleg Zhyugzhda, and is aimed at teenagers and adults, rather than children, as was its 1st premiere.

It’s no accident that Gogol has been chosen for the anniversary. The director, who was shocked by the play in his childhood, has long dreamt of adapting it for puppets. Of course, various interpretations are widespread across the stages of Russia and Ukraine. Viy is being staged at Grodno’s Puppet Theatre with few special effects, and features both large and small puppets, with masks and costumes changed as necessary. Naturally, the actors and delicate set design also have a vital role to play.

The performance will be the last premiere on the old stage of Belarus’ first theatre. In the middle of the 31st season, the theatre will close for reconstruction, with performances moving to the small stage of the Regional Drama Theatre. The Puppet Theatre is currently housed by a building which is part of the Gorodnitsa Architectural and Town-Planning Complex. It was built by Grodno’s headman, Duke Antoni Tyzenhauz, in 1760-1780, and has hosted three puppet theatres to date. It has been a contemporary theatre since 1980, with a repertoire of over 35 performances for children, youngsters and adults. It relies on synthesising classical and modern stage art, with puppets of various types used, easily combined with acting skills. The theatrical company successfully tours Poland, France and Germany and their performances have been awarded numerous prizes at prestigious foreign festivals and contests.

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