Archive for August, 2013

Some Questions On Russian Theatre In London

August 26, 2013

Phoebe Taplin has kindly sent me some questions, which I attempt to answer below.

Why are you particularly interested in Russian drama?

I’m not sure that I am particularly–I’m interested in Russia, Russian, Russian literature, drama, so Russian drama follows naturally enough.  Russian drama…err…isn’t that good compared with other branches of Russian literature, or with English(-language) drama.

In Russia itself you get a lot of adaptations of non-dramatic works on stage together with foreign-language plays and adaptations of foreign-language non-dramatic works, in a way that you don’t here.   So I’m hardly alone in my opinions…

The idea of the Russian Theatre in London page is that since I have a blog and I tend to look out this kind of information for my own purposes I might as well share it in case it’s useful to other people.

Which have been the best productions you have seen recently?

I enjoyed the Vakhtangov Uncle Vanya that Roman Abramovich paid for last Autumn and the National’s White Guard, though that’s some time ago by now.

Do you think London is a good place to see Russian plays? Why? Why not?

Surely it depends what you’re comparing it with.  You tend to see more Russian plays than other foreign-language ones put on here, and similarly I’m sure you see more here than in other places in the UK (but that’s true of everything).

But you’d see far more English-language plays put on in Russia than Russian plays put on here of course…

I think what strikes me is the way that Chekhov has been canonised as a classic on the same kind of level of Shakespeare.  This means you see many, many productions of his plays and in many of these nobody has realised that the characters are supposed to be both ridiculous and tragic; or even asked themselves who these people are–what they are like–if that is what they say and what they do.

I don’t think that the default naturalistic/TV style of acting does much of Russian drama a great deal of good either.  And not only Russian drama of course–you get bizarrely naturalistic Brecht among other painful errors…

I also often get the feeling when seeing Russian plays here that I know what the play is about but the cast and director don’t.

So my answer may well be ‘No’, unfortunately enough, for the the reasons given.

Referring to my account of Russian plays in 2012/13, I would encourage people thinking of having a go to eschew both Chekhov and adaptations, and to put on something by a real dramatist who is not Chekhov–Bulgakov or Ostrovsky in the first place.  I also don’t believe that any of The Bedbug, Mystery-Bouffe or indeed Woe from Wit have been seen in London for a long time.  That would be somewhere to start…

Missing Ginger/White Cat Crofton Park SE4

August 25, 2013

missingAs a service to the community, we post this appeal that came through the letterbox today.  We know nothing further, as can be seen below!

Conscientious picture of cat-free outbuilding.

Conscientious picture of cat-free outbuilding.


UPDATE 5 SEPTEMBER:  Kipper has now returned home–see comments below.

‘I cannot live…’ (Pavel Sharov)

August 25, 2013

I cannot live. I cannot die.
My debt to you cannot be repaid.
Crumpling up my grief,
I squeeze out cheese in English,
the photographer clicks–and it will be a surprise
if only for our descendants,
perhaps scum and perhaps saints.
Life punched me in the belly after a delay–
I choked on my own cry
and spat it out on the snow,
but got back my breath and became a person.
I was not born yesterday,
not made in the lab, although small-boned.
And you forgive me if you can.
No–that means no, but
it hurts me–do you hear?–not to be with you,
that we are wandering–but where to?–haphazardly–
and the feeling
is unanswered, like letters (the grass has gown over
the past; I remember the year and the date,
only what’s the point?)
In the alphabet there is no thorn or yod
for me to find you in this world
is the needle in the haystack.
I can feel that a fatal March awaits me.
There are no trump cards in fate’s paw–
see, I’m passing.
Remember me sometimes, won’t you?
You won’t be offended–that’s right, isn’t it?–
if I take of your shoes
and kiss your feet in a dream. On Tverskoy
I dream of you all the time. What to do with this sadness–
weep? Pray?
God, how stupid it is. On this note–farewell,
the gunpowder is gone, the harquebus has fallent silent,
the lyre, the reed-pipe…


Жить — не могу. Умереть — не могу.
Я пред тобой в неоплатном долгу.
Скорбь свою скомкав,
я по-английски выдавлю “чиз”,
щёлкнет фотограф — и будет сюрприз
хоть для потомков —
может, подонков, может — святых.
Врезала жизнь мне с оттяжкой под дых —
собственным криком
я захлебнулся и харкнул на снег,
но отдышался и стал человек.
Шит я не лыком,
делан не пальцем, хоть узок в кости.
Ты же меня, если можешь, прости.
Нет — значит, нет, но
больно мне — слышишь? — что я не с тобой,
что мы бредём — но куда? — вразнобой,
и безответно
чувство, как письма (быльём поросло
прошлое; помню я год и число —
только что толку?!)
Не в алфавите “фиту” или “ять” —
мне в этом мире тебя отыскать —
в стоге — иголку.
Чувствую: ждёт меня гибельный март.
В лапе судьбы нет козырных-то карт —
вот и пасую.
Ты вспоминай обо мне иногда.
Ты не обидишься — правда ведь, да? —
если разую
и поцелую — во сне… На Тверской
всё ты мне снишься. Что делать с тоской —
плакать? Молиться?
Боже, как глупо… На этом — прощай,
кончился порох, умолкла пищаль,
лира, цевница.

‘Do you know, citizens of the United States…'(Vera Pavlova)

August 11, 2013

Do you know, citizens of the United States
how we in Russia live, at best?–
just like a patient who still waits
for his test.
Will the diagnosis pose a threat?
Should you believe the bewildered seer
not recovered from anaesthetic yet
on a bier?

Граждане Соединённых Штатов,
знаете, как мы живём в России? —
словно в ожиданье результатов
Станет ли диагнозом угроза?
Верить ли растерянной гадалке,
просыпающейся от наркоза
на каталке?

shamans song (Aleksei Tsvetkov)

August 8, 2013

your time is coming your retribution
whether son is judge to father or brother over brother
in glass like shrapnel to smithereens office
with black fire chalice singes the larynx
this planet and this land are not yours
the verdict at midday do not deny it no

exactly you will be requited according to your measure
lets remember the jackals house on seliger
bullets in beslan gas in the nord-ost theatre
on the triumphal arch in the court or on kalanchevskaya
there will ring out a distribution of soap to you and twine
do not take any further booty from us

and if truly there is nothing beyond hells portal
you need neither pitch nor wax from us
you will find no punishment truer than saliva and laughter
those who recovered sight in the world have their own holy places
for the human mincemeat of kolyma katyn
you will be dead in your time and deadest of all

here over a bonfire setting light to rotten stuff and grasses
i call down swift ruin on those in the wrong
wisps of smoke in the sky and beat the tambourine
if only with acetone in a plastic bag and glue in a tube
and if we ourselves do not survive all to the morning
ruin goddess of good fortune pray to her



ваша пора приходит ваша расплата
сын ли судья отцу или брат на брата
в стекла шрапнелью вдребезги кабинет
черным огнем гортань опаляет чаша
эта планета и эта страна не ваша
в полдень вердикта не отопретесь нет

в точности вам воздастся по вашей вере
вспомним шакалью псарню на селигере
пули в беслане в зале норд-оста газ
на триумфальной в суде ли на каланчевке
грянет раздача мыла вам и бечевки
большей добычи не унести от нас

если и правда что нет за порталом ада
вам ни смолы ни серы от нас не надо
казни верней не сыскать чем слюна и смех
есть у прозревших на свете свои святыни
за человечий фарш колымы катыни
станете в срок мертвы и мертвее всех

здесь над костром возжигая гнилье и травы
скорую гибель зову на тех кто неправы
дымные клочья в небо и бубен бей
хоть ацетоном в пакете в тюбике клеем
если и сами к утру не все уцелеем
гибель богиня счастья молитесь ей

‘She was kind, she washed, she robbed…’ (Bakhyt Kenzheev)

August 5, 2013

She was kind, she washed, she robbed–he died early and was late to rise again.
I would be glad to make a fair copy of the life–but had no time to spare then.

To leaf to the end of the nocturnal textbook by the lights on the ways between
stars, to cure finally fear of time–if not with prayer, then morphine.

So the only man is pondering, stunned by world-wide woe
weakened, but all the same combative, dissimilar, but alive even so.

To all it will be rendered with one measure. And when at the computer he stays
until morning, retouching the grey photographs of the grey days

–there may be petrol and Lethe frozen over, the clouds may hang low in the skies,
only let the photo, that fragile ex voto, fill with tears that man’s eyes.


“Обласкала, омыла, ограбила — рано умер и поздно воскрес.
Рад бы жизнь переписывать набело — только времени стало в обрез.

Долистать бы ночное пособие по огням на межзвездных путях,
залечить, наконец, хронофобию — не молитвой, так морфием”. Так

человек размышляет единственный, оглушенный бедой мировой,
ослабевший, а все же воинственный, непохожий, но просто живой.

Всем воздастся единою мерою. И когда за компьютером он
до утра ретуширует серые фотографии серых времен —

пусть бензин и промерзшая Лета, пусть облака над отчизной низки —
только б светопись, ломкая летопись, заливала слезами зрачки.