Written by Konstantin Fyodorov, based on Fyodor Dostoevsky
Directed and Choreograped by Maxim Didenko
Theatre of Nations, Moscow
April 3 and 4, 8pm
The Idiot is an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novel of the same name told in the style of Clownery Noir. The piece is performed mostly in silence, through clownery-noir-style movement, with a few exceptions. Combining clown work with a cubist aesthetic and the intensity of an EDM dance party, the loudest elements (both literally and figuratively) are sound and lights: music assaults the audience throughout the piece, with scenes repeatedly performed under a pulsing strobe light.
Because The Idiot is performed by-in large in silence, the focus is mainly on two elements: first, the physical journey of Prince Lyov Nikolaevich Myshkin, the novel’s main character, and the one to whom the title of the novel references; second, Myshkin’s relationship with Rogozhin, his travel companion, and the two romances Myshkin stumbles into. The performers move excruciatingly slowly, with repetitive, simple movements. The audience is asked to witness simple interactions that seem to drag on long past the point where we might wonder what will happen, or even care. As a result, the storytelling is more or less clear, but I found I had little interest in the characters and their journey.
The stage rotates 360 degrees, offering two sets on which the performers works and a walkway on top of the set that they walk across and ride through transitions from set to set. The cast consists of a total of 4 actors – three men and one woman. Two of the men play multiple roles, including Myshkin’s two love interests, and one man plays Rogozhin, Myshkin’s friend and travel companion.
Myshkin is played by a young woman whose performance may best be compared to Beeker from the Muppets: she stands erect and compact, reed-like in her movements. From time to time, she makes ‘beep’ or ‘meep’ sounds, again, similar to Beeker. She is sweet and wide-eyed, a fact accentuated by her clown make-up. This was in great contrast to Rogozhin, with a scowl always painted on his face, the eyebrows intensified and ever-burrowed.
Throughout this piece, one clearly sees the essential goodness of Myshkin in contrast with the essential rottenness of the world and the rest of humanity. Though I don’t know The Idiot well, I get the sense from the excerpts we were given, (translation of the 5 or 6 monologues spoken through the play, which I understood to be excerpts of the novel) combined with further research and my understanding of Dostoyevsky’s work that the novel is comprised of a complex set of ideas and contemplations. This production removes complexity from the picture, focusing on a reductive view of Dostoyevsky’s characters and the world.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size and detail: 4 (Including Musicians)
Touring Size: 22
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 15m, 15m
Set Up time (including sound and light): 1 day
Freight: 40 foot van (high cube)
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes