OFF – This is not your Karenina
An Equivocal Answer
Guilt or innocence? Hero or antihero? These are questions to which I think there cannot be an unequivocal answer for any literary or dramatic character. It is especially difficult with such a complex character as Anna Karenina no doubt is. To reduce her behaviour to one or the other side is virtually impossible. There will always be someone who sympathizes, there will always be someone who hates: after all it depends on your point of view, on your understanding. I think that this issue was also considered by the creative team of the performance Tohle není vaše Karenina (“This Is Not Your Karenina”), which was, in my opinion, entirely captivating, thrilling and painful all at the same time. Goosebumps. I had those the whole time.
Dominika Horváthová (VŠMU)
“WOULD I BE ABLE TO TAKE RISKS..?!”
- a critical impulse of the monodrama Tohle není vaše Karenina (“This Is Not Your Karenina”) directed by Alexandr Minajev and Daniela Samsonová
Hana Drozdová as a present-day Karenina represented a prototype of an ambivalent woman. On the one hand, unbridled fire, on the other, a fragile breeze. Throughout the monodrama, she went through every single inner feeling in an extraordinarily sensitive manner. The deep vibrations of her acting were so very often dangerously close to our own hearts. They provoked, entertained, but also evoked sympathetic, almost self-critical, feelings. The actress’s precise use of facial expressions and gestures were a proof of that. Thanks to their sharp dynamics, they were perhaps more theatrical, but all the more provocative and convincing.
A key part of the monodrama was also the frequent work with movement in various situations: dance, (making) love, playing with the son, suicide… The movement was highly stylized, as well. On the other hand, at times, it felt as if it was pushing the already expressed into the background. In other words, it was almost “destroying” the text and its expressive power. Therefore, the wild-tame movements of the actress could have been slightly more reserved in some situations. The spectator could nevertheless be witness to an interesting clash between word and text, although the victor was always quite clear.
The actress also portrayed the other characters: her husband, Karenin; the lover, Vronsky; and the son, Seryozha. However, she was most convincing only while portraying the son, thanks to her distinctively affectionate child-like voice and playful gestures. I saw her potentially acting variations in the cases of her husband, Karenin, and her lover, Vronsky, more as being idiosyncratic parts of her monologues. Any distinct stylization was not present with these two men. At points, the actress seemed as if she had not really enjoyed her acting. Information poured from her mouth in too fast and unclear a fashion. As a result, the spectator could only vaguely imagine certain parts.
I regarded the following as the key symbols of the monodrama: the wolf mask, the video projections, and the electric train. As the play progressed, and following from the actress’s actions, these symbols truly pointed out the key elements of the story. The wolf mask presented the wild manner of Karenina’s lover; the video projections served to underscore the various locations of the story (train station, horse races…), as well as its atmosphere (passionate vs. hopeless); and the electric train was meant to denote a memory of the first meeting between Karenina and Vronsky. Apart from that, the set was dominated by more-or-less filled, or completely empty, hanging goblets, whose creative potential, though, was not fully utilized. Originally, I thought they were supposed to hint at the uncertain inner life of Karenina. However, they were only used as a microphone and to emphasize Karenina’s suicide (the pouring-out of a red fluid from the goblet) at the very end. The occasional country music in the monodrama was mostly quite difficult to comprehend and, in some situations, again quite contradictory to what was portrayed by the actress. It distracted and really reshaped the intimate atmosphere of the play.
As a whole, the performance felt very attractive, especially with respect to the acting. Provocative (the necessity to decide on the guilt/innocence of Karenina and her adultery), at the same time extraordinarily intimate and compassionate (empathy with Karenina’s outburst of passion). But most of all…it compelled us to ask the self-critical question: “Would I be able to risk as Karenina did?!”
Petronela (Ela) Brotková (VŠMU)