Life Is Beautiful
Macedonian National Theatre - Skopje
premiere 10 April 2016, Main stage
Nikolai Erdman's "The Suicide"
Zagorka Pop-antoska Andovska
Filip Petrovsky, Kuzman Klekovsky
190 min., with intermission
"Limber-up!": Olgica Zdravskovska (violin), Idaet Sejfulov (clarinet), Voiche Petrushev (harmonica), Dejan Mitrovich (doublebass), Nikola Kimovsky (percussions)
Nikola Ristanovsky, Nikolina Kujacha, Zvezdana Angelovska/ Biljana Dragichevick, Sashko Kocev, Tanya Kochovska, Emil Ruben, Gorast Tsvetkovsky, Slavisha Kajevsky, Nikola Acesky, Alexander Giorgiosky, Arna Shijak, Tina Trpkoska, Alexander Mikik, Nikola Stefanov, Kire Giorevsky, Alexander Mihajlovsky, Maria Novak, Dragana Levenska, Nikola Kimovsky, Maria Dimitrova, Anastazia Hristovska, Sonya Krstevska
"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. 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
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.
TOURS & AWARDS:
XX-th jubilee Zlatna Bubamara award for popularity - Most successful theatre production (2016)
XX-th jubilee Zlatna Bubamara award for Best male role - Nikola Ristanovsky (2016)
Presented at the 51-st International Theatre Festival Voydan Chernodrinsky, receiving the awards for:
Best male role - Nikola Ristanovsky in role of Simeon Podsekalnikov
Best supporting female role - Biljana Dragichevick in the role of Serafima Ilinichna
Presented at IV-th International Theatre Meetings Festival MITEM at the National Theatre of Hungary (2017)
Dynamic, atractive, with a text that cannot leave you indifferent, this production will be part of MNT's repertory for a long time to come.
Republika newspaper, 11.04.2016
It's a comedy, a farce, a grotesque that makes your breath stop and your stomach ache with laughter. Food for thought on the question of whether there is any limit to stupidity and avarice. When you are walking on the edge of this dilemma, although comfortably seated in the theatre chair, the result is undeniable - an excellent theatre production!
Star newspaper, 11.04.2016
It's a sad comedy about our daily life. The characters who are convinced they are permittted anything, are demystifying all social and political misbelieves. And it's a heavy blow on truth. The grotesque in "Life Is Beautiful" resembles a tragic story about the naked human life - the hopelessness and hell we find ourselves in, just before we see the light at the end of the tunnel: life is more important, beautiful. Without forgetting the old question of "when will we finally be ready to feel alive without the need of a human sacrifice?".
Lilyana Mazova, Globus magazine, 12.04.2016