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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Eneida – a story of success of an ordinary Ukrainian man

Most expensive for the past 20 years large-scale performance appeared on theater posters in Kherson
5 February, 2013 - 10:19
Photo courtesy of the Theater

The audience has been waiting for this performance for a long time already. In fact, the director of Mykola Kulish Kherson Oblast Academic Music and Drama Theater Oleksandr Knyha does not conceal the fact that director Serhii Pavliuk asked him to stage this play three years ago. However, the management of the theater delayed the staging because there was no funding for it (and they did not want to make a “checkpoint” performance out of a classic play). After they learned how to make money, the greatest large-scale and the most expensive play in the years of Ukraine’s independence was staged in Kherson. Eneida cost the theater over 250,000 hryvnias! The authors consider this performance to be quite significant, capable of both entertaining and educating Ukrainians to be conscious citizens of their country.

“After traveling around the world and seeing the level of the European theater, learning the repertoire of foreign theaters that come to Kherson for the international festival ‘Melpomena of Tavria,’ I came to the conclusion that Ukraine today is interesting to the world, primarily for its national identity. We have great culture, history, and many unique traditions – theater has to make use of it to the fullest,” told director of the theater Oleksandr KNYHA to The Day. “That is why we announced 2013 to be the year of Ukrainian theater in Kherson. We begin it with the play Eneida, which, in fact, thanks to Ivan Kotliarevsky showed Ukrainian character and culture to the world more than 200 years ago. We are currently looking for good scripts, including one of a story for children. We will also make the next New Year’s play The Night Before Christmas based on national material.”

SERIOUS PERFORMANCE IN LIGHT SHOW FORMAT

Kherson Theater is not a pioneer in the production of Eneida. Other theaters, including one in Kyiv, Poltava, Donetsk, and Mykolaiv staged performances based on Kotliarevsky’s play. Production of Eneida by director Serhii Danchenko is considered to be an outstanding example of how to stage Kotliarevsky’s play. The performance was staged in 1986 in Ivan Franko Theater in Kyiv. Danchenko invited Anatolii Khostikoiev for the lead role of Enei and Bohdan Stupka read the words of the author. Original productions of this play were staged in Nikolai Gogol Poltava Oblast Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater (directed by Yurii Kochevenko) and in Donetsk Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater (directed by Viktor Shulakov). By the way, the last show in 2002 won the Taras Shevchenko Ukraine’s National Prize. However, no matter how many theaters staged this classic play, each director is capable of original interpretation of it and, thus, has a right to stage the play based on his vision. As a result, Kherson-style Eneida turned out bright and has already found its audience and critics.

For the director Pavliuk this has been not the first production based on national material. In his performances Terrible Vengeance, Viy, and Natalka Poltavka one can trace the development of the author’s artistic style, which to a certain extent reached its climax in Eneida. Already in the beginning of the play the director offers the audience to sense the dragging on of the story and the continuity of generations, starting the play with the song of Hryhorii Skovoroda “Vsiakomu Horodu Nrav i Prava” (To Every City its Rights and Morals). From the first minutes the audience is anticipating a serious performance in a format of a light and bright show. Author’s words are read by Cossack Mamai. Generally, according to the director’s conception, Mamai – a symbol of Ukrainian Cossacks, with bandura in his hands tells the audience an ancient legend about one of his sworn brothers – Cossack Enei. In fact, this is not Kotliarevsky’s but Cossack Mamai’s Eneida with certain accents, simplified (as if retold) story and adapted text.

Pavliuk managed to turn the classic play into a modern performance that could be interesting primarily for young people. Director used the talent of the best actors of Kherson Theater in his Eneida: Oleksandr Melnyk played Enei, Serhii Kyiashko played Cossack Mamai, Anatolii Tolok played Ankhiz, and Ruzhena Rubliova played Yunona.

Great scenery, bright national Ukrainian costumes, unusual choreography, and exciting battle scenes (in Pavliuk’s creative interpretation), especially due to the saturation of artistic details and simplifying the original text, the performance looks like a modern impressive fairy tale. And like any good fairy tale, Eneida has profound implications.

Oleksandr MELNYK: “Our performance is like a short story of success of an ordinary Ukrainian. Such examples of success are really important nowadays. Think for yourself, until boxer Oleksandr Usyk won the Olympics and somehow danced hopak there was no fashion for wearing oseledets (toupee) on your head. Once he won, young people realized right away that this is our Ukrainian character, our special trait, and we should not be ashamed of it, on the contrary, for this we are interesting to each other and to the rest of the world.”

“We couldn’t avoid politics in the play. Kotliarevsky made it an integral part of the play. More than 200 years passed since the time Eneida was written, but it is still topical: bureaucracy, corruption, irresponsibility – all of that appears in the play. I have not invented anything,” Serhii PAVLIUK told The Day. “In fact, in life I am indifferent to politics. But speaking about the adoption of the Language Law – the main political decision of the last year, I realize that this was nonsense! Politicians who talk about the oppression of the Russian language in the country often refer to Kherson, Donetsk, or Odesa as 100 percent pro-Russian regions. And here we stage a completely Ukrainian play in Kherson. This is a challenge! However, it is not a challenge only for the infirm politicians, but mainly for ourselves and the people who surround us. With this performance we want to appeal to the Ukrainian Ukrainians. We are as if saying: if you live in this country, you have to respect its traditions, language, and culture. Of course, Kherson Theater will not change the situation in the entire country with this performance. But it remains the fact that we managed to create a true Ukrainian theater ‘product.’ It was created in Kherson by a Ukrainian director and actors, based on Ukrainian ‘national material.’ Judging from the first-run shows, it is interesting to the Ukrainian audience.”

MEN ARE NOT BORN HEROES, THEY BECOME ONES!

According to Oleksandr Melnyk, actor starring as Enei, the creative team tried to make it clear to the audience through this play that we, Ukrainians, do not honor our history, culture, ancestry, we are ashamed of things that we have to be proud of.

“Our performance is like a short story of success of an ordinary Ukrainian. Such examples of success are really important nowadays. Think for yourself, until boxer Oleksandr Usyk won the Olympics and somehow danced hopak there was no fashion for wearing oseledets (toupee) on your head. Once he won, young people realized right away that this is our Ukrainian character, our special trait, and we should not be ashamed of it, on the contrary, for this we are interesting to each other and to the rest of the world,” said Oleksandr MELNYK. “Director did not make Enei the main character in a classic sense. At first glance, there is an ordinary Ukrainian man standing before the audience, who is wandering along with his fellows around the world in search of a better life. It seems that gods from Olympus and circumstances define everything for him. However, Enei is different from his contemporaries by the fact that in the most crucial moment, he is able to act. We show the audience that men are not born heroes, but they become ones! Why Enei wins in our play? Not because he is strong, brave, and resourceful. But because there appears his father, who explains him how to live. This represents a tangible link between generations. His father told him: son, you are a Ukrainian man, you have to remember your roots and respect the culture. Enei wins only because he is willing to listen to and obey his father. By the way, the role of Enei is really difficult to play. The complexity of the role is that you cannot hide behind the words. You really have to play with your whole heart and soul. As the main character I speak only in the end of the performance. I show to the audience from the stage what I am feeling and how important it is for me through emotions, gestures, and acting.”

Director of the theater Knyha also said that after the performance was so warmly received by the audience in Kherson, he plans to take Eneida on tour throughout Ukraine, including Poltava, Kirovohrad, and Kyiv.

There is a belief in Kherson Theater that if the director cries at the premiere, the play turned out well. At the premiere of Eneida Oleksandr Knyha couldn’t fight back his tears. Kherson Melpomene servants believe that this is a good sign.

By Vadym LUBCHAK, The Day
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