Playing Improv

There are a few days a year when a Tashkent theatre-goer postpones his or her plans and heads to the Ilkhom theatre of Mark Weil to attend script readings. Scenic improvisations have become a well-liked tradition – they are rehearsed for a week, performed with scripts in actors’ hands, and never repeated.

The first readings of 2017 were framed in the Days of Contemporary German Culture. This time, instead of enacting traditional contemporary dramaturgy, “Ilkhom” decided to turn to cinematography. The audience was presented with “Wings of Desire”, “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant” and “The Tin Drum”.
I’ll let you know that I did not get the chance to attend the theatre to witness Petra’s tears, but I will share the rest of my impressions.

“Wings of Desire”
Over the years I have pilgrimaged to the theatre, I have developed a simple life hack: never judge a play by its description. “Wings of Desire” fully confirmed the my developed approach.
What I expected: a soul-gripping love story of an angel falling in love with a mortal woman, a rejection of his wings in her honor, immortality and heaven, difficult decisions and a torturous adaptation to the pangs of human life.
What I saw: disparate scenes that I could not piece together. The reading turned out unclear, like the teacher called on a student who didn’t do his homework.

There was as much romance in “Wings of Desire” as I have optimism in the mornings – zero. Flat characters moved across the stage, with little to show and even less to tell. The Angel (played by Askar Urmanov) does not save his wards, doesn’t empathize with them, doesn’t try to influence the course of things – he just watches snippets of everyday life, which are rather uninteresting and reveal nothing about the actors.

The behavior of this winged hero resembles a boring newsfeed on a social network – politely Like another photo of a fleeting acquaintance and continue to scroll.
At the end it turns out that one of the objects of observation is a former angel who also came down to Earth – apparently there’s many of them in Berlin. The idea is clear, but it pulls another idea with it: “Why?” The celestials brought nothing vital to the city. So do we really need these vague characters?

“The Tin Drum”
This is a look into the world of a boy who at age three decided to stop growing – adulthood seemed too uninviting.
The audience becomes acquainted with the hero within the walls of an insane asylum, receiving the initial point of perception for this performance. Following little Oscar’s (Vladimir Yudin) plot thread is not too easy: let’s be honest, sometimes we cannot even put ourselves in the position of a reasonable adult, and here the theatre wants us to dive into the mind of a madman.
In the center of this universe is a drum, which the child strikes rhythmically to protest the surrounding indifference, hypocrisy and lack of love.
With childlike candor, the boy guides the viewer through a series of events, describing them in simple and honest language. Here we have clowns running around, and this is where the mother (Hristina Belousova) lives and cheats on her husband (Alexey Piscov) with her own cousin (Bernar Nazarmukhamedov). So we have it- if we ignore the poetic comparisons and beautiful epithets, life consists of copulations (terribly dirty), the cruelty of children (hosing the reject with the waste of livelihood) and the deafening scream that bursts the glass in a pair of glasses, sharp splinters digging into the skin. Your scream – the only way to be heard.

And for the duration of the entire production – we have percussion (played by Damir Fatkhulin). It’s alive, vibrant, like a huge heart, which drives the flow of hot blood through the veins, preventing it from stagnating, becoming rancid. I don’t know what would have happened with the production without the organic intertwining of music and actors.

The finale makes the audience, who has already grown accustomed to this insane world, to shudder, as if from a painful blow to the stomach. Oscar, with a glint of madness in his eyes, admits that he essentially killed both of his fathers (biological and official), invented and contrived, pretending to be harmless. And there’s so much pulsating hatred and evil triumph in his voice…

Throughout the play you thought that the boy was just different from us, with a different prism of perception, another understanding of the world, so the realization that all this time you were justifying a monster hits you like a bucket of ice water. A diseased soil cannot produce healthy plants – the person simply absorbs the surrounding dirt. The scariest part is that you cannot trace at what point the madman became a monster, and why you did not notice it. Is it possible that when we focus on extraneous things in real life we also fail to notice the main danger: how someone close to us transforms into a beast?

INFO. The Ilkhom Theatre of Mark Weil presented the following theatrical improvisations in the framework of the Days of contemporary German culture:

“Wings of Desire” – based on one of the most outstanding works in contemporary cinematography directed by Ernst Wilhelm “Wim” Wenders. Theatrical improvisation directed by Maxim Fadeyev. Actors: Vladimir Yudin, Jan Dobrynin, Askar Urmanov, Anastasiya Sergeyeva, Nigina Djabarova, Yuliya Plakida, Maxim Fadeyev.

“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” – a drama about loneliness and alienation. This is the first work of the German director, and owner of the “Golden Bear” award of the Berlin festival – Rayner Verner Fassbinder. Director of the theatrical improvisation – Marina Turpisheva. Actors: Honored artist of Uzbekistan Olga Volodina, Anastasiya Shaldykina, Elina Klimova, Zilola Ruziyeva, Anastasiya Pryadkina, Klara Nafikova.

“The Tin Drum” – a philosophical drama based on Gunter Grass’s novel. In 1979 this piece earned the main award of the Cannes film festival the “Palme d’Or”, and in 1980 it won an Oscar in the nomination for the best foreign film. Director of the theatrical improvisation – Boris Gafurov. Actors: Vladimir Yudin, Alexey Piscov, Hristina Belousova, Bernar Hazarmuhamedov, Natalya Li, Abdulaziz Hodjaev.

Written by: Katerina Reker

Photo: Alexander Rayevskiy