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A Night at the Theater: Психоз

This past Monday, October 10, I went to the closing night of Alexander Zeldovich’s Psychosis (Психоз) at the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre in Moscow. This is the same Zeldovich who directed Target (Мишень, 2011), and whose documentary film Process (Процесс, 2002) I subtitled this past summer.

Zeldovich’s Psychosis was a production, in Russian, of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis. I hadn’t heard of Kane or her final work before my Russian professor told me about Zeldovich’s production, and since I didn’t have access to a full version of the script, I went on the warning that it’d be “totally, absolutely bizarre.”

Based on Zeldovich’s Target, I had an idea of his taste: severe and absurd, but psychological. After reading excerpts of Kane’s original work and watching a few monologues on ye olde YouTube, I had an idea of how the two styles would look combined. A vague one, but an idea.

Psychosis was hands down the oddest production I’ve seen in my life. This was my first encounter with in-yer-face theater, and it was very much ‘in my face.’ The picture shown above is of the five screens used to show animations directed by Zeldovich and the AES+F art group (and completed by Georgy Arzamasov, Sergei Sinitsyn, and the Scream School of computer graphics). In his review on Kommersant, which includes a few pictures from the show, Roman Dolzhansky describes “strange mushrooms with vaginas hiding in their stipes, huge flying insects, flocks of colorful fake nails, [and] animated knights armed to the teeth.” He leaves out the cockroaches with human breasts.

It can be easy to write off absurdities like this as just that – absurd. Imagining some designer working stoically and patiently on one of those mushrooms is enough to make a middle schooler snicker. But from the coiner of ‘in-yer-face,’ Aleks Sierz, the style is made “[to shock] audiences by the extremism of its language and images; unsettles them by its emotional frankness and disturbs them by its acute questioning of moral norms” (http://www.inyerfacetheatre.com/what.html). This is exactly what Zeldovich’s production does. It gives the viewer a literal take on ‘extremist imagery’ and portrays a grotesque subconscious, one of nightmares, one of illness, one of pain. While the Russian translation notably fails to express each and every time Kane uses ‘fuck’ (which is rather often), it makes up for the verbal confrontation with visual confrontation – the actresses’ screams demand you look them in the eyes and feel the writer’s anguish. It is an unsettling yet welcome feeling.

I left the play in awe, but not before meeting with Zeldovich afterwards. The exchange was brief – I only had time to ask the questions I had about the animation – but meeting with the director of this production, as well as members of AES+F, after having my mind completely blown to bits by their work, was an honor I haven’t yet known. Them complimenting my Russian was icing on the cake.

If this evening has taught me anything, it’s that hard work truly does pay off. I honestly can’t remember how many hours I worked on those subtitles, but it was worth getting those three to see Psychosis and meet Zeldovich, knowing my work was appreciated, and appreciating his, as well.

 

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It’s Alive

My new site is up and running – which means there are now Russian versions of all of my pages! Check out the footer at the bottom of my other pages to see the language options (English and Русский). All of the translations are my own work, with minor edits from native speakers.

I still have some small tweaks I plan on making, but the move overall was a success. More updates will be on their way soon.