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From Russia With Love: Moscow Art Theatre graduates bring woodland show Forest toEdinburgh

Kelly Apter

Actor Brian Cox fell inlove with Russian theatre, then passed that love ontohis children. Wespeak tothe Cox family and the young actors they're bringing tothe Fringe
Moscow Art Theatre was founded in1898byKonstantin Stanislavski, the godfather oftheatrical acting technique. But when Brian Cox talks about the “great lineage” passed down through the company and school over the years, hecould just aseasily betalking about his own family.

Brian first saw the company perform when hewas astudent inLondon, and was later invited toMoscow toteach atthe school inthe late 1980s. The work ethic and methodology these young Russians employed was incredibly impressive their movement was astonishing, herecalls. Then Idid aTVprogramme called Brian Cox's Russia for BBC Scotland acouple ofyears ago, and met upwith the students again, who are now running theatres and starring infilms.

„And because theatre and ballet are sofundamental toRussia, there's always been anedge toit the way itreflects society isreally quite unique. The tradition of“going tothe bottom ofyour soul”, asone young Russian student described ittome, iswhat the Russian theatre and ballet isall about. “

From Russia With Love
Like father like son, Brian's son Alan was also bitten bythe Russian theatre bug asayoung man. “Ithink it's because itwas anenthusiasm ofmydad's when Iwas ataformative age,” says Alan. „Itwas aculture Iwas exposed toand responded to. Idid asummer school with people from Moscow Art Theatre and then astudent exchange scheme. There was always asense that they were the keepers ofsome mystery, and had anapproach toacting and theatre that Ibecame fascinated by.”

Meanwhile, Brian's daughter Margaret was studying Russian atuniversity inStPetersburg and isnow fluent inthe language. Which has come inhandy asshe, brother Alan and dad Brian, have helped bring recent Moscow Art Theatre graduates, now part ofthe Brusnikin Studio theatre collective, tothis year's Fringe with Forest.

Asthe name suggests, Forest isset inawoodland and while Alan has been scouring the woodyards ofPerthshire tosecure timber for the show's Fringe set, the performers inMoscow have been polishing upthe production they originally created in2017. Back then, the show's director Dmitry Melkin discovered that most ofthe young actors had little connection with the natural environment sotook them into anactual forest for amonth-long preparation period.

„With our eyes blindfolded, wewalked barefoot with anescort for 30minutes through the forest,“ recalls actor Nikita Kovtunov. “Wewere trying tofeel aunity with the forest, tofeel the forest inside ofus. Wewere really overwhelmed with the result and itopened upalot ofemotions and feelings. And we'll try totransfer that experience tothe audience, tooffer them the possibility tostop and think about the natural things that are inside all ofus, tofeel that connection and harmony with nature“.

From Russia With Love
The performers rehearsed using the Meyerhold system ofbiomechanics, inwhich anactor uses gestures and movements toexpress emotions. „It's auniversal language,” says fellow actor Eva Milgram. „Wedon't have any lines, wedon't use words wejust have movement. Inrehearsals wewould take anobject, discover it, find all the possibilities ofhow touse it then put the object away and continue tomove asifitwas still inour hands“.

Speaking tothe young graduates, it's clear their experience ofworking with director Melkin has been illuminating. „Inregular theatre, the director tells you what todo and atthe beginning ofour rehearsals for Forest, Iexpected ittobelike that“, says performer Dmitri Severin. “But this isactually much simpler, you're not anactor but you are aperformer. You inhale and exhale with the rhythm ofthe show, hear the atmosphere with your own ears, operate with anew vocabulary, it's all about being natural”.

All three performers speak with enthusiasm about sharing the work with aninternational audience. And when the Moscow performers arrive inEdinburgh, the Cox family will behere, too welcoming them tothe UK, just asthey were all welcomed toRussia.

“Forest isquite astonishing and dazzling inmany ways,” says Brian. „One ofthe things that struck mewhen Ifirst went toMoscow, isthat theatre there very much reflects society itwas the one way that the truth ofsociety was being told. And the performers inForest are reflecting what's happening now, how the natural world isbeing disturbed and their concerns about that“.

The List
1-08-2019


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? ? (17.07.2000)



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