In the 80s, after graduating from the Tashkent Theater and Art Institute, he had an internship in theaters in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In his work, one can notice the influence of the Russian school of theatrical and decorative art of V. Leventhal, M. Kitaev, and E. Kochergin, who was his scientific adviser.
Since 1989, Vasily Yuriev is the chief artist of the Ilkhom Theater. The set design by V. Yuriev is figurative and unexpected. Vasily knows and feels today’s Ilkhom better than anyone. Organizing the playing space, the artist makes the most of all the advantages and possibilities of proximity and inseparability of the stage and the theater hall.
He is the author of more than 50 theatrical productions – in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and other foreign countries.
Critics’ reviews – N. Tashpulatova, O. Plugar, I. Myagkova, K. Artykova published in the book “The Unknown and Known Ilkhom” about some set design works by V. Yuryev.
In the play “My White Mercedes” – the playing space was turned into a shooting set.
The whole cinema technique, spotlights, a rotating camera crane, microphones, etc. served as a decoration. The main detail of the design was an old, battered “Mercedes” with “live” headlights and “screen-wipers”, around which, in fact, the plot of the play was twisted.
The backdrop was surrounded by a stage pavilion – a painted fabric, which in texture resembled ashes and snow, saturated with char and soot.
In the finale, when the main character was murdered symbolically, huge rag boulders that hung menacingly throughout the entire performance fell down, and fake blood began to ooz out of gaping halls, leaving behind red tails like in a movie, which were associated with profusely spilled blood, as it usually occurs so in action movies.
“Happy Beggars” by K. Gozzi. The artist of the performance, Vasily Yuriev, makes an armor-clad mesh as the main place of set design. Its functions are multi-valued. It refers us to the “purism” of the set design of the 60-70s, which widely used the mesh (elevators, beds, cell motifs – being blocked up with bars) to reproduce the black truth of reality. It sends us to go after Gozzi to fight with hard-boiled reality, soar above it. When we see the applications from the mosaic, which have quietly fallen throughout the whole performance, stayed in some places on the mesh, we understand that this is an image of the collapsing Samarkand. Culture, from which only the skeleton remains – iron construction. When in the first act inside the mesh space equipped with mesh sliding doors, uncomfortable trestle beds are placed on which refugee-like drifter characters find room, it becomes clear that this is the state-owned space in railway station.
Here they sleep, have a snack from the bag, shave, whipping soap suds in paper cups, wait for something, quarrel, come and go. Here relationships are tied up and broken. Here, purely in Russian, but also in Asian travelling habit (as well as on the laws of the Carnival with its true freedom of communication), they tell each other the most incredible and most frank stories of their lives. Station in “Happy Beggars” is the main scene. Where else do you bow your head to the poor?! And where else can the paths cross of departing and arriving, exiles and war veterans, merchants and secret agents, lovers and profiteers?! The station is today’s replacement of the Square, the image of a world where everything has shifted, moved away from the usual places. And the first action of the “Happy Beggars” is the chaos newly created by the Universe. Everything is mysterious, not everything has yet been formed, one has nothing to do with the other, but everything requires attention, everything declares itself loudly and inventively, as is usually the case in youth and student performances.
The Tortilla Flat is a musical based on the novel by J. Steinbeck. Set design by Vasily Yuryev. On the stage is a construction made of different-sized wooden poles, branches, boards, wicker kenaf. The life of the main characters of one of the American provinces resembles the life of grimy birds in a bird’s yard.
In the final, a fire destroys the small world of the main characters: in front of the audience, a “toy” Christmas house burns, donated by Danny – his real inherited house. The textured environment created from kenaf falls down, leaving burnt-out constructions on the stage of the flat where someone’s dreams of a better life and love were buried.
In “King Yubyu” the idea of a naive street theater was decided by Vasily Yuriev boldly and unusually. He erects a kind of game construction on the stage, reminiscent of either a small stage, or a gallows, or a “latrine”. The scaffold stage floor can be disassembled, forming holes and openings where the characters sit (in the “prison”) by turns. Along the edges of this gallows-stage, like left and right wings, there are target screens with the appearance of human figures, with protruding ovals in place of hearts. On this scaffold stage, and once even on a ship, amazing transformations take place – whole military battles, park amusements and, finally, meetings “in the next world”. The simple-minded play of the actors, their attachment to set design, allows the fantasies of the director and actors to roam with might and main.
The scenic solution of the “Free Novel” is elegant and uncomplicated: all the performance takes place in one of the rooms of a certain Pushkin Museum. In the spirit of that time: furniture, chairs, a sofa, a dresser, candlesticks are exhibits of the museum. A group of young people appears in it, and unceremoniously moving museum fences, takes us into the world of Pushkin’s poetry. The black study is draped with curtains. They open in the scene of the “Gavriilliade”(a narrative poem by Alexander Pushkin), where the action takes place either on the promised land, or in paradise. The painted backdrop depicts a Garden of Eden – a blue sky and the gates of paradise dotted with autumn leaves. The balcony of the stage serves as the “God’s Abode.” But before that, it becomes a spectator’s balcony in a conditional theater, where they play “Feast during the Plague.”
The characters “play” Pushkin, sometimes using for their actions any first object they grab – a toy carriage, cell phone, etc. The whole atmosphere – unpretentious scenery, naive effects, such as a magic dresser – at first, books, a samovar (boiling tank), a perfume set, etc. were taken out of a magic box, and then dry leaves flew out, fake snow started to fall – the spirit of the game “make-believe” gave the production its own unique charm.
The set design for “Imitation of the Quran” by A. Pushkin, aims at video projection, is multifunctional and carries many meanings and quotes – from a trivial mirror screen to “reflections”, symbols, and sometimes distortions – the grimace of life. On these multi-screens moving horizontally and vertically, there appear letters from the Quran verses written in blood, reflecting “heaven”, and documentary shots from the military chronicle of Afghanistan or Chechnya, which is not important, since there is no specific scene connected to any event. The scene in the play gradually gains its “eternal”, parable meaning. There is no topical shots about 9/11 in it, beating on the nerves, but everything that is voiced, reflected in the video, what is happening on stage – in action, in rhythms, in music – all this, of course, says about us, about our troubled time.
“Love’s Labor Lost” by W. Shakespeare. All the action takes place, presumably, in the palace park. The scene is one half of a tennis court. The other half is the one behind the net – imaginary. Is there a park around the court? Is there a palace somewhere nearby? In reality, we see only part of the court. There, behind the “net”, behind a picturesque curtain no taller than human height, behind painted flower beds, a garden, hunting and peasant lands. Along the perimeter of the stage there is a podium – a “running machine”. The podium is not wide, just for the defile of characters! As good as any secular set of activities: a park, a tennis court … The idea of the court is wonderful! (Set design by Vasily Yuryev). Playing on it, playing around it, playing tennis and playing “mind and heart”. The game is half real, half asleep, half fantasy. Everything is so shaky, changeable, like games in twilight, when a tennis ball is barely detectible, and you are already playing, almost blindly, relying on intuition, on chance…