Alexander Morfov >> works >> theatre productions >> Life Is Beautiful | NT Bulgaria 

Life Is Beautiful  

Ivan Vazov National Theatre of Bulgaria, Sofia  

premiere 6 March 2012, Main stage 

 

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Nikolai Erdman's "The Suicide"

 

Julia Ognyanova, Alexander Morfov 

Alexander Morfov

Nikola Toromanov 

Marina Dodova 

Assen Avramov 

Ivaylo Ivanov 

Phelia Barouh 

Liana Dimitrova 

180 min., with intermission 

"Limber-up!": Vesselin Vesselinov - Eko, Mihail Shishkov Jr., Nivilian Gemidzhev, Nikolay Temniskov, Danail Totev 

Kamen Donev, Renny Vrangova, Svetlana Yancheva, Plamen Peev, Albena Koleva, Roussi Chanev, Stephania Koleva, Teodor Elmazov, Darin Angelov, Deyan Angelov, Valentin Tanev, Pavlin Petrunov, Bilyana Petrinska, Yordan Petkov, Emil Markov, Stefan Kashev, Lubomir Petkashev, Vyara Tabakova, Valentin Balabanov, Albena Stavreva, Vladislava Nikolova, Vasilena Getskova, etc. 

Life is Beautiful, NT Bulgaria

     "The Suicide" is most probably the play that faced the communist censorship the longest - 60 years of ultimate ban. The text was written in 1928 and first staged in 1987 in the USSR. It is called "The Government Inspector" of the XX-th century and Erdman is often compared with Gogol and Sukhovo-Kobylin. Two theatres are competing in staging the play - Meyerhold's Theatre and MXAT (Moscow Art Academy Theatre). Meyerhold, Stanislavsky, Lunacharsky, Gorky and Bulgakov all unite in support of  "The Suicide" but all efforts prove to be futile. 

     Erdman wrote the play at the age of 28 and it is his last play. In 1933 he is exiled in Eniseisk for "counterrevolutionary literary works" and later released under special regime - he is deprived of his right to establish in any of the 10 big cities in the USSR, including Moscow. In spite of that,  he is the scriptwriter of some of Stalin's favourite films - "Merry Boys" and "Volga, Volga". His name, though, is erased from the titles of those films. In 1948 he receives the Stalin premium award "Brave Men" but this is not considered as a legitimate reason to lift the ban from "The Suicide". The play was first staged in Russia several years after Erdman's death. 

 

     A Russian black comedy of the twenties, 'The Suicide' satirises the plight of an unemployed man, desperate enough to contemplate ending it all. The play considers the nature of humour; the hearts of the self-centred characters who will use anyone to further their own selfish aims; and the triumph of the individual, who keeps his dignity in a society where the slogan "for each and all" echoes emptily. For Semyon, only the prospect of death can give the individual the freedom to act and speak as he wishes.                                                                                                                                             ~ Jo German 

Renny Vrangova, Kamen Donev

Renny Vrangova and Kamen Donev

  

     Semyon Semyonich Podsekalnikov is an ordinary man fighting life's difficulties as best as he can. Unfortunately, he has been unsuccessful so far as he is jobless and moneyless. He shares a household with his wife and her mother and conflicts are often, though love and affection are clearly part of this family. Semyon has a dream of which his wife and to some extent his mother-in-law are supportive - he wants to learn to play the tuba. This dream is a promise of a better life, full of money, fame and happiness, but most importantly - a life that will permit him to take good care of his family. He is so obsessed with the idea that his wife manages to save some money and rents a tuba for him to practice. Practice turns into a disaster - he is unable to produce even a single tone, let alone a certain note or a whole musical phrase. He follows the instructions in the booklet about reaching exact notes and comes to know that in order to continue practicing he would need to buy a piano. The prohibiting price of a second musical instrument throws him back to even more severe depression and Semyon decidedly attempts suicide. But he is startled by a man in the room. The noble stranger turns out to be sent as a speaker of the intellectual elite with the mission to convince Semyon to not simply kill himself, but to kill himself for a cause and turn his own death into a symbolic act of protest against the miserable state of the Russian intellectual elites. 

     The news that there is a man who is decided to commit suicide spreads rapidly. People representing all kinds of professions and causes are now coming to visit Semyon and trying to convince him to kill himself in the name of all sort of ideas - in the name of romantic love, in the name of Venus, in the name of the butchery, etc. Those guests are so convincing and needy that they even agree to certain compromises: they are all going to have their suicide notes signed by Semyon who ends up signing 18 of them. He is promised the best possible celebration of his act, beforehand of course, as well as that his family will be taken good care of. 

 

     In the heat of the party when he is supposed to shoot himself Semyon suddenly realises that "life begins 30 min. before we die". Severely drunk, he manages to escape the enthusiastic crowd and hides behind a tree where he produces a misleading gunshot and falls into sleep drunk. In the meanwhile his wife and mother-in-law receive the news that Semyon Semyonich is now dead and his suicidal act is highly appreciated by the society and its causes, and he will be given an honourable burial - one that a heroe of his grandeur deserves. The funeral procession brings in the coffin with the "dead" man inside and leaves it at the house until the ceremony begins. 

     What a surprise it is for the two grieving women when the man raises from his coffin-comfort with a terrible hangover and truely convinced that he is dead and standing in front of heaven's door! 

     A production full of laughter, sadness, social responsibility, deep philosophy and, not least, love for life as difficult as it might be. 

     During communist years our parents were very happy. What made them happy were those little, ordinary, small joys, human relations that make life real. Back then we didn't have this ambition, this lust for money, the strive for luxurious possessions, expensive cars, apartments and mansions. We did notice that there were some people who could afford that, probably at our expense, too. There were also those who were discontent with that situation but the ordinary man lead a happy life because he was trying to isolate himself from life's injustices. Not everyone is born a rebel, a revolutioner, not everyone has those skills - so what's left for you? Spending a life full of envy? No! Your life would be wasted, it would turn into venom, into green irony, it would be a senseless life. We better look into the eyes of the people we love, feel their hands, enjoy the little things we have - that's what life's about. It can be truely beautiful! 

 Alexander Morfov, interviewed by Yordan GeorgievAlma Mater Radio

For touring information click here. Download tech rider here:  

NOMINATIONS & AWARDS: 

 

Nomination for "Icarus" Annual Theatre Award 2013, given by the Union of Bulgarian Actors - Alexander Morfov, Stage Director of the Year 

Nomination for "Askeer" Annual Theatre Award 2012 - Svetlana Yancheva, Leading Female Role of the Year (Serafima Ilinichna) 

"Icarus" Annual Theatre Award 2013 - Kamen Donev, Leading Male Role (Semyon Semyonich Podsekalnikov) 

"Askeer" Annual Theatre Award 2012 - Kamen Donev, Leading Male Role (Semyon Semyonich Podsekalnikov)

Annual award given by the Society of theatre critics in Bulgaria - Svetlana Yancheva for her role of Serafima Ilinichna in "Life is Beautiful"

REVIEWS: 

 

" If there is anyone who can turn the theatre stage into an epicenter of loud, noisy, celebration full of lively nonchalance and desperate optimism, his name is Alexander Morfov. In his productions feast, music and joy always erupt unexpectedly, seemingly out of place, and inevitably with an immense  power that instantly overflows around, raises up to the sky and sweeps away greyness of daily life, despair, unfulfilled dreams and unreached lives. It transforms into a symbol of revelry of the desperate. In his new production the director stages Nikolai Erdman's comedy of absurd "The Suicide" as an optimistic grotesque. This play is not about suicide anymore. It is a devotion to life, a man rediscovers life. 

Life Is to Be Beautiful | Svetlana Pancheva, duma.bg, 10.03.2012 

video: Yavor Vesselinov 

"I have a friend - a cinema director, who gave up on theatre after seeing Alexander Morfov's "Dom Juan" because, in his words, "Theatre now reached the ultimate proximity to cinema in terms of excitement, scale and epicness." Albeit I might disagree with his presumption and the consequences, I do agree on one point: Morfov's productions are intrepid in scale, impressive and spectacular. They sweep you away with their set design, cast, light design, music and even duration. In the US this would be called the WOW-effect, while I would simply define it as a guarantee for a full house." 

The Effect Is Beautiful | Elena Peneva, capital.bg, 29.03.2012

 

"A dicretor who always manages to arouse the vast audience's interest with his spectacular, rich, almost opera-like productions that he combines with his bohemian rebellious presence in the media. [...] As for The National Theatre - the most renowned and prestigeous theatre venue that everyone knows of, it is pointless to hide that Morfov is probably the only director who, throughout the years, has overpowered this insidious (due to its scale and status) stage." 

"A Life-Enhancing Suicide" According to Alexander Morfov | Gergana Pirozova, personal blog, 10.05.2012 

 

"All elements of the stage act are delicately orchestrated in terms of development and dynamics, accents and culminations. The actors are bonded into a united team and perform with pleasure that spreads to the audience. [...] In "Life Is Beautiful" Alexander Morfov builds a staging based on the paradoxical mixture of the highly abstract (problems like life, death, and their reasoning) and the practical reality (daily life, poverty), and on the contrast and opposition of polarities - despair and hope, laughter and sorrow, etc. Beyond the front layer - the comical one, one can discern existential problems and bitter socialist satire, where serious and funny are skillfully balanced and set against one another without  tilting the scales to either didactics or to carefree fun. Monstrouness and comedy form a grotesque diffusion, fear is defeated with laughter - the ultimate weapon in the hands of the hope, joy and life. The end result is transformation of the story about a suicide into a story about reaching the realisation that "life is beautiful".  

A Delicate Orchestration | Nikolina Deleva, Theatre magazine, 01.04-30.06.2015

 

"Morfov pertains this huge gift (and taste) for magic. It is understandable that among his major contributions to our theatre (with congenital tendency towards didactics) is that Morfov freed it from all bias against spectacularity, towards the completely reachable balance between richness and philosophy (something that comes natural for big theatre in general). Our stages were somewhat avoiding this balance and rarely turning to it. That is, Morfov gave them the gift of "unrestricted love" for magic and spectacularity without depriving this magic from its philosophical message."

Life Is Beautiful, or an Optimistic Essay on Our Theatre | Kalina Stefanova, liternet.bg, 29.09.2012 

 

 

"After all the unforgettable Shakespearean productions - rich in their spirit and flesh, and the other true achievements on theatre stage, Morfov staged many other classical plays - some of them tragedies, some of them widely discussed by the media. But all of them memorable."  

Alexander Morfov: Life Is Beautiful, Right? | Ira Antonova, mdl.bg, 22.01.2013

 

 

 

More: 

Why Didn't Podsekalnikov Commit the Suicidevesti.bg, 19.03.2012 

Life Is Beautiful | Maria Georgieva, personal blog, 13.05.2012 

A Theatre Review: Life Is Beautiful | Vassilena Valchanova, personal blog, 02.03.2013

"Life Is Beautiful", or Why It Is Worth Living | Alexandra Andonova, lovetheater.bg, 14.10.2015 

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© 2019 by mdemireva

Life Is Beautiful

National Theatre Bulgaria