Despite its many years of existence, the Belarusian theatre has been long in gaining its own ‘Oscar’ ceremony; the need for a special award has been acute. The ‘Crystal Paulinka’ is traditionally awarded to recognise the work of famous masters or newcomers but fails to reflect current trends. However, the new, annual National Theatre Award is making amends.
The first awards ceremony has taken place at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, gathering the elite of Belarusian theatre. Twelve troupes presented performances to a Theatre Academy jury of 112 people, who cast their votes by secret ballot. Jurors were from various schools and generations, ensuring a diverse range of views, and resulting in hot debate.
“It was a complete surprise for me to see Alexey Lelyavsky and his puppet show win ‘Best Stage Work’,” notes the artistic director of the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama, Valery Anisenko. “The puppet genre is quite alien to me, although I admit that it’s justified in its existence: it enjoys many fans. The prize shows that winners are chosen without bias.”
The Yanka Kupala Academic Theatre’s production of Not Mine, based on Ales Adamovich’s novel Nemko — staged by Alena Kolyunova and Alexander Gartsuev — claimed the greatest number of awards: ‘Best Modern Belarusian Production’; ‘Best Production Design’ (artist — Boris Gerlovan, costumes and set — Yelena Igrusha); ‘Best Music’ (composer Oleg Khodosko); and ‘Best Female Role’ (actress Svetlana Anikey). The performance shared ‘Best Belarusian Performance’ with the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre’s Nabucco — by Verdi and staged by chief director Mikhail Pandzhavidze. “No doubt, this is a shared victory,” admits Mr. Gartsuev. “In honesty, I felt slightly awkward sitting in the audience, as I never expected to see so many awards.”
Director Boris Lutsenko notes with satisfaction, “It’s wonderful that this award ceremony has been launched. I think that, next year, we’ll see it held on a new level. Teams will plan their projects ahead of time, advancing our professional state of mind and stimulating creativity.”
We are now entering a new phase for Belarusian theatre, analysing today’s trends countrywide and recognising excellence. A new level of competitiveness is to be expected, to the benefit of all parties.