Memories from the heart
Dialogue of cultures at Theatre of Belarusian Drama
The Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama is well-known in Germany, having given performances at the international ‘New Plays from Europe’ festival, usually held in Wiesbaden in mid-June. Last year, Minsk put on an experimental performance by Sara Tokina, called ‘Capital Around’ — based on Sergey Girgel’s play. Valery Anisenko, the Art Director, sees the festival in Wiesbaden as one of the world’s most organised, benevolent and professional forums dedicated to contemporary theatre. Belarusian playwright Andrey Karelin, whose plays are included among the theatre’s repertoire, has received much praise.
Anisenko’s new performance — written by rising Belarusian star Pavel Priazhko — is called ‘When the War Ends’. It tells of the love between a Belarusian soldier and a German girl, penetrating the European psyche of the female protagonist, Ani; she appears so real that audiences can’t help empathising with her. Like ‘Alpine Ballad’ — by Vasil Bykov — its cha-racters are separated by psychological barriers as well as ones of language; they overcome these, but too late.
The Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama has tried to show the war in terms of a contemporary play, while avoiding clichйs. The performance is dynamic and full-blooded. Anisenko is not a master of metaphors but of the reproduction of life in all its expressive detail. He is bringing new names to the attention of the public and truly making the most of new young drama in his ‘theatre-la-boratory’. It may be the only site in the capital to be doing such work.
In fact, this is Pavel Priazhko’s debut with the state theatre. After the premiere of ‘Trunks’ in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with the fiery vehemence of youth, he confessed, “I don’t care about those who act out my scripts; I’m only responsible for what I’ve written. My work is limited to paper. The rest is not my scene. I don’t think that the fiasco of the performance is the fault of the playwright. It’s the fault of the stage director — as success is to his merit.” It seems that the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama is lucky in having Anisenko, who seems to better understand Priazhko’s work.
Indeed, ‘When the War Ends’ is no blockbuster; it’s a military melodrama of tragically fallen feelings. It has two dimensions, divided by light, mood and scenery. During a fierce battle in Berlin, soldier Sasha (Denis Parshin) discovers frightened German mother Ani (Anastasia Piskunovich) and her child. Translation problems turn into conflict, then reconciliation and a search for common language. Ani understands that nobody is going to help her and asks Sasha to bring her food, as the city rattles with fire. Sasha leaves his house and the red banner...
Meanwhile, Sasha’s fiancйe (Veronika Buslaeva) repels the advances of a serious military man (Andrey Dobrovolsky), who brings a deluxe picnic and vodka to her door. On being rebuffed, he decides to take her by force... Back in Berlin, Soviet soldiers have found Ani and her child and killed them. Sasha takes their bodies to shelter and covers them with a red banner. The deed infuriates his commander, leading to Sasha’s imprisonment. In the final scene, he emphatically smokes a cigarette, wearing his prison quilted jacket with a serial number. He looks out at the auditorium, while a screen shows footage of the military Victory…
The ingenious juxtaposition brings us to think about such soldiers in a new light; their destinies were tragic. Those who disobeyed their despotic commanders found themselves in penal battalions. Priazhko gives us a ‘revision’ of values and history. The stage director has well used Belarusian psychological theatre and, although stronger plots exist in military literature, this debut is a success. It is a true example of contemporary Belarusian drama. It may be shown in Wiesbaden, since this is Valery Anisenko’s dream — and will come to life again before the festival audience. Undoubtedly, the play will bring much pleasure. The Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama has created a drama to fascinate everyone.