Thursday, 20 July 2017

Cockroach Dramaturgy: Anastasiya Sosis @ Edfringe 2017

Sosis Productions presents

@theSpace on the Mile: 4th & 5th August (Preview nights), 7th-12th August, 10:05 am (110mins)

Cockroaches is an original translation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s earlier, uncensored version of “Flight”, translated and directed by Anastasiya Sosis.

Cockroaches is a tragedy set in the last days of the Russian Civil War. Five refugees flee the impending Soviet rule in search of freedom and a better life, only to find poverty and indifference in foreign lands.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

For me personally it was the civil war in Ukraine. When the revolution happened in December 2013, I had no idea that my hometown, Donetsk, would very soon become a war zone. I just thought naively that people are just fighting for democracy. The following year of events, however, exposed me to how much evil can be done when you mindlessly align your actions’ justification to any ideology, without examining what your own intentions are. 

Cockroaches is exactly about that for me, when I read that play, I felt it had said exactly what I thought, but a hundred years ago. It was time to revisit those ideas.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

It’s a hard question. Over the years theatre has been trying to redefine itself so much, the audiences might not necessarily know how to engage with the idea inside the performance anymore. Still storytelling in all its forms is the oldest and perhaps most sophisticated way of engaging in a search for meaning, and everyone wants meaning in their lives. 

I wouldn’t say that performance is the space for discussion of ideas, because a discussion would require both sides to talk to each other. But I think performance is a good space for publicly asking questions that are personal to each individual watching the performance. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

When I was 16, my father had basically forced me to sit down and watch Amadeus. He told me before that it was about Mozart, and I expected it to be some documentary style story. At the time I wasn’t very engaged with performance, and preferred easily consumable films and stories. 

But when I watched the film I was stunned. It was filled with a profound sense of tragedy and beauty. I felt for the first time that films and theatre can be engaging in a deeply meaningful way, not in a snobby intellectual sense, but in a way that made the world seem like a place of magic and purpose, rather than just boring cold facts. I wanted to contribute to that.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

As we had to cut a lot of the original play out for time, we decided to adapt a somewhat minimalistic approach in terms of set design. The actors are only using suitcases or chests for furniture, and that actually works well with the idea of being constantly on the run. 

In Russian we have a saying “Sitting on suitcases”, meaning being ready to get up and leave immediately. That’s what the characters of the play are basically fated to do once they abandon their homeland.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Taking into account I studied to be a film director, no, not at all. I haven’t really produced anything after I graduated from film school, however. I felt disillusioned with the process and the industry, and I didn’t feel like I had that much to say. I think in some way this play inspired me to direct again.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

Most of all I just hope they enjoy themselves. I hope they laugh during the funny scenes, and sympathise with the protagonists and their tragic fates. I know it’s vague, but I just want people to feel what I feel about the story, which is the sadness for what the characters had to go through, and hope for a better future.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

I made sure my actors know what my vision for the play is, and then I let them bring their own ideas into it. It always turns out better when the process isn’t just what the director imagined and nothing else, because my imagination is about the whole play, and the actors focus on just their character, and somehow, even though they think of things I didn’t, it just fits perfectly and enriches the performance, makes it more alive. 

I make sure I like what I see and that I feel engaged with the characters in each scene. The rest is just decoration, even if it’s thematically important, the actors are the heart of it!

Burdened by the starvation of St. Petersburg and imagining an impending victory of the Pro-Royal army forces, naive and intellectual Sergey Golubkov embarks on a journey to Crimea. He hopes to wait out the conflict and return home, but is instead confronted by the atrocities of war, cruelties created not by ideology but by man. He is thrust into a nightmare, journeying to save a woman he loves: a refugee he met in the lamplight at the train station. 

Matthew Ward (playing General Khludov) trained at Central school of Speech and Drama. He began his acting career in 1987 and has been performing in both Theatre and TV. Matthew’s more recent works include Rob in Reality Chokes at the Edinburgh Festival, Norman in Gifted at the White Bear, Geb in Stairway to Heaven at Blue Elephant as well as tours of the one man play St Nicholas by Conor McPherson, sponsored by the Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity.

Anna Danshina (playing Serafima) trained at Drama Centre London and graduated in 2016. Her recent theatre credits include: Liza (lead) in ‘Notes From Underground by John Cooper in 2017; Aglaya Epanchin (lead) in ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoevsky in 2017; Anna (lead) in ‘Morphine’ by Bulgakov in 2017, Natalia in Chekhov’s Farces ‘Wife for Sale’ in 2016.

theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH (Space 1): 4 - 12th (not 6th) August, 10:05am (110 mins)

Tickets: £9.00 (£7.00) 4 - 5th August previews; £7.00 (£5.00) 7 – 9th August; £9.00 (£7.00) 10 – 12th August.

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