A HYPNOTIC TALE OF A DEVASTATING LOVE

ANNINA KARHU

Newspaper TURKU SANOMAT, Turku/Finland

 “Tolstoy’s text is turned by actors’ lips into a tumultuous current, simultaneously containing grotesque, sensual beauty and frolic”.

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THEATER

         Andrei Zholdak and Valeriy Zholdak: “Anna Karenina”. Based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. Finnish translation by Ulla Reinikainen and Sari Läikelä based on the original translation by Arja Pikkupeuran. Turku City Theater. Director and sound director: Andrei Zholdak. Set: Astrid Kutschale and Andrei Zholdak. Costume designer: Tuomas Lampinen. Music and sound by Vladimir Klykov. Video and sound director: Andrei Zholdak, Vladimir Klykov and Janne Rehmonen. Makeup director: Heli Lindholm. The premier will take place on February 5 on the Big stage.

        Andrei Zholdak (born in 1962) is one of the most interesting European stage directors of our time. His production of “Anna Karenina” creates on the stage of Turku City Theater a holistic audio-visual entourage, in which each visual or aural element of the whole contains a thoroughly selected meaning.

        The idea of a musical performance is concretized by the bandmaster’s figure present in the orchestra pit leading the rhythm of actors’ gestures and voices with his baton. Zholdak’s world existing under its own rules has its won rhythm, the exorbitance of fragments and variations of which merges into profound and touching symphony.

        The interpretation of the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) focuses on the tragic love story of Anna and Vronsky, leaving out the parallel line of relationships between Levin and Kitty. Zholdak narrates the story of how love comes into being, how it wilts and, finally, vanishes.

        A sensual person is unprotected and vulnerable. Being afraid of their feelings, many either quench their passion or direct it at another person, thought, science, art or any other sphere of human life. Subdued feelings can create the illusion of a controlled and moderate life, but at the same time a person leaves unused huge supplies of energy and strengths hidden behind feelings.

        In Zholdak’s “Anna Karenina” actors’ bodies express energy, which creates and destroys love. In the modern theater, love is portrayed by stressing sexuality. Anna and Vronsky’s passion is a desire, which blows all obstacles off of its way towards the other one, in whom it is so easy to see one’s own self.

        In the play, Anna and Vronskiy see a mirror in each other and see themselves in that mirror; what is more, they are capable of walking through the mirror, but contemplating one’s own self creates the fear of losing one’s reflection. Anna and Vronsky are terrified to see love turn into addiction, hate and bitterness.

        Hatred is the shade of love; the two are inalienable. In the modern theater, hatred is conveyed through violence. In one of the most beautiful and at the same time horrific scenes of “Anna Karenina”, Anna and Vronsky cut their veins and press the bleeding wounds against each other. This scene is an expressive picture of the inevitable self-destruction of the two woeful beings.

        Tolstoy’s text is turned by actors’ lips into a tumultuous current, simultaneously containing grotesque, sensual beauty and frolic. Actors’ words are often pronounced in the form of a monologue; however in the text itself we can hear the sounds of many voices. The lavish use of remarks distances the text from the actors. The position of the text on the whole is not dominant; the plot receives development by virtue of sounds, gestures and impulses that have their beginning in the physical presence of actors

        Even though I am myself pleasantly surprised by how much Zholdak managed to squeeze out of the Finnish actors, the problems voiced during the lecture in Turku City Theater on January 31 still show themselves in the production.

        The crew of “Anna Karenina” did not become one with actors. On the level of actors’ energy, side-to-side swaying takes place. Separately one needs to point out that the performance of speech organs of the more mature actors fell short of production requirements. Certain cues, which were supposed to sound like shouts or be pronounced hastily, seemed forced, damped, and clogged.

        However, Krista Kosonen playing Anna Karenina and Markus Järvenpää acting Alexey Vronsky have coped very well with physically difficult as well as psychologically and emotionally demanding roles. They boldly and veritably expressed the Eros and Tanatos energy that overtook Anna and Vronsky.

        Elina Aalto as Kitty, Outi Condit playing Dolly, and Petri Rajalain the role of calculating Karenin have also been able to achieve in their acting the effect needed for the play.

        One of the techniques used in the production is repetition that emphasizes the significant themes in the production. For example, there is a beautiful scene in the end of the performance, when the naked image of Kitty appears to Vronsky over and over, even though he has betrayed her numerous times and turned her out the door.

        Vronsky does not love Anna any more, and so other women gradually start emerging in his thoughts, although, out of self-respect, he wants to chase any such thoughts away. This moment clearly demonstrates Vronsky’s obsessive desire.

        In “Anna Karenina”, there are multiple real and imaginary doors on the stage. Along with the mirror, a door is another symbol, which is often present in dreams and in art. It represents both the promise and the loss; behind a closed door, one can imagine to encounter delight or fear and horror. A door is a boundary through which a man walks and the exchange of feelings and information occurs. An opening door designates new opportunities; a shut door stands for lost chances and denial.

        On the whole, “Anna Karenina” is a rich and multilevel collage in terms of stenography, which, with its squeaking door, leaking roof and the mysterious wood, depicts the inner reality of the characters.

        The video image shown in real-time on the white background replicates the actors’ mimics and gestures up-close, at the same time brining actors closer to spectators and distancing them from the level of the two-dimension picture.

        Zholdak writes in the production booklet: “A spectator does not come to a theater to watch a play for the sole purpose of delight; the present production does not make for peaceful viewing. (…) The viewer is forced to think, he must think in order to understand what he or she sees”.

       Yet the issue here is not only that of mental understanding, it is, to even larger extent, the issue of intuitive and spiritual comprehension. “Anna Karenina” is a hypnotizing production and it is a big honor for Turku City Theater to host it onstage. 

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