First Show in Moscow: Шут Балакирев (Jester Balakirev)

Adapted from

My show breakdowns will vary slightly for this project, since I am discovering connections between the shows and my sociopolitical observations in Russia. As follows:

Who did the show? When, where? 

I saw the performance on Monday, May 26th 2014 at Theatre Lenkom. Built in 1907, Theatre Lenkom became the “Theatre for the Working Youth” in 1927 and has been a leader in new and experimental theatre ever since*.

Some pictures from the outside of the theatre:



And from the inside (every theatre has a cool chandelier, I’m going to try to document them all!)


What stuck out to you about this production artistically/technically (what did you admire/learn about as a student theatre artist)? 

In depth ensemble work. There was an ensemble of male soldiers and women of the court and every member of the ensemble  had a fully developed individual character and action- all together enriching the life on stage. And though every member was unique, they worked together like a machine- seamlessly transforming the stage in between scenes while singing, working off one another during the action- but still listening the entire time. (Ensemble work was also strikingly strong in Мёртвые ду́ши – or “Dead Souls” which I saw at the Gogol center.)

The use of the floor planks. Altering the stage floor discombobulates the perception of the stage- and lends to creating a surrealistic experience for the audience. (An irregular stage floor was used in Мёртвые ду́ши as well.)


At the top of the show.

When we find Balakirev hiding from the army.


At intermission, before entering into the dream world.

What were you able to connect between this show and the current sociopolitical situations in Russia? 

The Jester Balakirev is yanked along from ruler to ruler until he is eventually left stranded. He watches the deterioration of each beloved power figure- deterioration brought about by exhaustion, insecurity, mania, and too much power. Russia’s history is populated with leaders who brought deterioration to themselves and others because of too much power; Ivan the Terrible, Lenin, and Stalin to name some obvious –  though I wonder if there is any statement Theatre Lenkom is making about the present in choosing to revive this play. Russia’s current president is Putin and he has been in office- either as prime minister or president- since 1999. Is it at all a comment on his long reign in power, “It’s impossible become a clever king and be not crazy”? Grigori is famous for reflecting Russian sentiment after the fall of the Soviet Union- the Soviet Union tried to be good- it was a good idea- but was it possible for Soviet Union leaders to amass so much power and still do good for their country? Is deterioration of a human power figure inevitable? Can a human being with a lot of power still be just and fair without getting corrupted? I still have a lot of research to do on current Russian sentiment about Putin, about what he has done that is popular and what he has done that is not popular – and also, what he has done that has bettered life in Russia for the majority and worsened life for the majority (and whether these are synonymous with what is and isn’t popular).



***This summary is based off my experience as beginner in Russian language with my friend who speaks more Russian helping me and some research. There may be some variations in details.

More show breakdowns and sociopolitical research to come soon!

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About Meleah Harris

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