Petro Avramenko – The performance “VIJ”, the creation of special effects, prejudices and beliefs relating

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Petro Avramenko - The performance “VIJ”, the creation of special effects, prejudices and beliefs relatingA well-known Ukrainian theatre director that has recently got the title of Honoured Artist of Ukraine, Petro Avramenko, tells about his creative career on the stage, interesting and difficult relations with Ukrainian cinema and the statement of the most macabre performance that can only be imagined in the repertoire of Ukrainian theatres.

The performance “VIJ”, the creation of special effects that are not worse that the cinematic ones, prejudices and beliefs relating to this creative work by M. Gogol – exclusively for FD.

Tell us, please, about your career. What has influenced you to become a theatre director?

– Sincerely talking I have never had a problem whom to be – to be an actor or to be a theatre director. The occasion determined everything.

The occasion that drives me through the path I have been going up to this day. Later, when I started to work at the professional stage, I got elder and I began to analyze my life, I came to understanding that I had been doing since childhood what I do nowadays. I spent my childhood in the village. Right there at the school and at the cultural centre of my village I used to play on the local stage. And there was no wonder, because many children used to do the same. But I did not just play roles, I tried to explain to my stage-mates what and how should be performed during the performance. It included the school performances and the concerts at the cultural centre as well. The most interesting thing is that everybody followed my instruction then. Later on, I came to know that such job is a job of the theatre director.

Which one was your first role? In which performance and which ones were your first impressions?

– My first role at the professional stage was the role of Figaro. It is quite difficult for me now to say whether I was lucky enough to embody this character created by the talent of Beaumarchais. I just remember that I was completely enchanted by the youngsters drive and by the hidden wisdom of this

character. After the premiere the grey-haired theatre critic came up to me and said the very warm words about my first role at the professional stage. After a short pause he added: “The great future at the stage is waiting for you if you are going to be cruelly demanding for yourself”! Sincerely talking I was rather skeptical about good words addressed to my playing at the stage, but I remembered the advice. By the way, later, in 2012 this grey-haired theatre critic published his own book about me – “The metaphoric theatre of Petro Avramenko” in which he revealed the essence of the theatre I wanted to create. The name of this critic who I had never communicated before I played my first role is Professor O. Chirkov. I studied at his postgraduate classes. When he founded his “Institute of Playwrighting”, I set up at this Institute my own experimental theatre “Bursaky” (The Seminarists).

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Tell us about your first stage production, what performance was it?

– My first directorial work was “Tartar” performance based on the dramatic poem by Oles Berdnyk. We were working on the performance nightly, after work, as it simply was not included in the repertoire. It was 2005. Then, we, young actors, sought to involve the viewer in thinking about the complex processes that took place in real life. Later, the performance was shown at the artistic festival “Golden Ukraine”.

The first success came, and together with it – the considerations concerning the essence of the theatre, its purpose and vocation. And the role of the director in theatre creation. Given it, the theatre, is the Temple, and Calvary, and the Cathedra, and the School. The spectator comes to the theatre as to the Temple of Art.

The director and the actors, who make this art, should speak about the urgent problems of the present time from the stage, like from the Cathedra. And at the same time the theatre is Calvary: since everyone can throw a stone into the creator, believing that only they, the ones who throw a stone, are eligible for the truth at the last instance. Although the stone is not so bad: for the theatre cannot leave the viewer indifferent. If the viewer leaves the theatre in complete indifference, then it is necessary to beat the alarm.

And my first repertoire work was the play “Forget Herostratus” by Hryhorii Horin, whose premiere took place in 2005. Of course, the events of that time could not but affect my perception of the play. Therefore, the performance found loud resonance. But later, in 2011, when I created the second edition of this play, it also gained another tangible philosophical features. The time has changed and I have changed, and together with me the performance. And then… Then there were another performances that were made in the other times, and there were another problems that I could not help but respond to. After all, the artist lives at a certain time and talks to their contemporaries about their concerns. And it does not matter from the perspective of which drama material the director solves the urgent issues. Whether these are plays of the classical repertoire, or contemporary playwrights. The main thing is that the pulse sensation of time was inherent in the stage works that the director puts on trial of the audience.

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“Viy” is, probably, one of the most famous performances of your last ones. Why did you choose this rather complicated and macabre story of Gogol?

– This performance was prepared for a long time. Initially, the stylistics of the forthcoming performance were tested in the play “The evening before Ivan Kupala (Saint John Night)” that I produced at the Theatre “Bursaky”. And only after this, so to say, the “sketch» I started working on “Viy”. In this performance, I acted as a director as a scriptwriter and as a stage designer. In the scenario, I left as much as possible of a descriptive part of the Gogol text – and in the design I left the minimal scenery. At the forefront, I brought out the character with its ambiguous philosophy and inner world.

But with regard to the fact that “Viy” is a macabre story, then there is something to talk about. It depends upon your reading of the story and upon your perception of the story.

Petro Avramenko - The performance “VIJ”, the creation of special effects, prejudices and beliefs relating

Nevertheless, our perception of the certain creative work (no matter of a book or of a performance) is a very personal one. We see what we want to see, what corresponds to our conception of the world we are doomed to live in. That is why the so popular slang word today as “macabre” finally means something rather depressive and gloomy. In such stories the death symbols dominate, anyway. But Gogol did not write horrors like Stephen King neither the poetizing of death like Edgar Poe did. And due to this Vij at my performance is not a mystical monster, but it is a… Well, I would not say – come to the performance. I would say just that the performance delves the spectator into the magic world full of the Ukrainian folk melodies, of the relaxed humour and of the impressing dramatism. Two suffering souls, two main heroes, the Seminarist and the Damsel try to find the exit, they cannot do it, because he is unable to repent and she is unable to forgive This eternal confrontation curls them and all around them like in the whirlpool. All the characters become the hostages of their own horrors that drive their souls in the vicious cycle.

And only Vij… Well, І would not say once again. I invite everybody to the performance.

You make a fi lm about such an interesting, but – unfortunately – not very well known person in Ukraine as Baron de Chaudoir…

– This fi lm is a part of the project of the series of documentary films about prominent figures in history, culture and art. The first fi lm of this series named as “The fi re of self-sacrifice” we made about Oleh Olzhych – an outstanding Ukrainian poet, politician, scholar and archaeologist. The fi lm is characterized by a large range of themes and subjects. We have followed the phenomenon of personality, which should be considered not only as a political figure but also as a person who has made a great contribution to science and art.

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The fi lm about the life of Baron Ivan de Chaudoir is a fi lm about an extraordinary chemist, collector, scientist, founder of a unique park in Zhytomyr about an incredibly rich person and I want to notice – about a generous patron and sincere philanthropist at the same time about a person that forged his treasures to establish the Chaudoir Prize for a significant contribution to the development of science. Such a prize could be compared with the Nobel Prize if the will of the Baron had been fulfilled.

The plot of the fi lm about Baron de Chaudoir is based upon the real historical facts, admonitions and mystic legends. The fi lm poses many questions, and they all relate to one real and at the same time a mysterious person whose name is Baron Ivan Maximilianovitch de Chaudoir, the last of the Chaudoir family.

Petro Avramenko - The performance “VIJ”, the creation of special effects, prejudices and beliefs relating

What is more difficult – a theatrical directing or fi lmmaking? And what is simpler?

– It’s simpler to do nothing. Although it’s difficult for me personally. I am accustomed to the movement, to constant searches. Cinema and theatre are the components that operate by the same principle. Nowadays, in the modern theatre the cinema techniques are very well used and thanks to which theatrical directors have the opportunity to express their vision more precisely and interestingly. Comparing the complexity of cinema and theatre is an impossible thing, because every art is complex and peculiar in its own way. But for sure we can say that the theatre combines all kinds of art in one synthetic action.

And while creating theatrical performances the director can no longer be limited to techniques that were inherent in the theatre from the time of his birth.

The government has awarded you with the title of Honoured Artist of Ukraine. How do you treat it?

– Of course it’s nice to be honoured. The moments of the sincere congratulations were extremely pleasant – I do emphasize – sincere congratulations – especially from those people from whom I did not expect.

Which performance will you offer to our spectators in the nearest future? What are your plans for the future?

– There are several projects at the moment and I’m in a creative search.

What would you like to wish the readers of our edition?

– Сonfidence in the future.