Part of the joy of collaborating with companies overseas is working with artists you might not generally meet that then bring a whole new flavour to your work and learning about whole new ways of doing things.
At the same time it’s important to recognise that the company also want what you bring to the party and what you may have done a thousand times before when making a show in the UK can be a new and exciting experience for people from another culture.
Whilst you need to understand Russian theatre, director-led, much more stage time – sets and lights up and able to be worked with almost from day 1, thus a concomitant attention to fine detail – a large core company of trained salaried actors and, in this particular case, making work in a theatre which has a large staff that at times seems to be like an extended family with all the joy that can bring but also the politics that can bring with it. However at the same time the company really wants to understand the way you work and are excited by new experiences.
This is particularly so in this case where three distinct theatre cultures are meeting, four if you count the world of puppets which I think you really should otherwise one of Viktor Ninonenko amazing designs will chase me through my dreams.
In the basement of the theatre is the cafe where Tatyana produces fine food every day for us all. Including fabulous salads, Perozhki – wonderful glazed buns stuffed with cabbage, rice and mince and various other fillings – which I absolutely love. But what I really adore are Tatyana’s damn fine soups. We eat a lot of soups and they are unwaveringly delicious. When I think of the mix we’re cooking up on stage I cross various crossable parts of my anatomy and pray the work will be as interesting, tasty and delicious as Tatyana’s famous soups. See what I did there.
Yesterday Sergey and I had the great privilege of being taken by Larisa Otmahova the Theatre’s General Manager to meet her friend world renowned sculptor Leonty Usov. He carves figures from the millennia old Siberian forests that surround Tomsk, and has a particularly fascination with sculpting the heads of writers. If the eyes truly are the windows of the soul then it’s these that draw you to all the figures in his workshop home. Leonty speaks of looking for the spaces in between where he and I guess the rest of us can exist in the minds of all these writers. It’s this he captures so perfectly in his work.
“An artist is not a bookworm. He should be a little bit silly” Leonty Usov.