Traditionally Kyiv’s spring theatrical season opens along with the Maria International Solo Performance Festival, named after the famous Ukrainian actor Maria Zankovetska. This project has for four years been headed by Larysa Kadyrova, its inspired founder and artistic director.
This year, as usual, the festival program proved diversified, including the photo exhibit “The Actress”, an guided tour of the Maria Zankovetska Museum, master classes, performances involving actors from across the world, and numerous meetings of friends, colleagues, like-minded people, and the Golden Maria as the festival’s memento.
The festival started with the solo performance To Be, staged by the Armenian director Akop Kazanchjan, who is also the author of the text. This performance could be regarded as a sequel to the woman actor topic, which is, of course, the festival’s leitmotif.
This time Larysa Kadyrova presented the inimitable Armenian actor, Siranujsh. There is nothing coincidental about the title of her solo performance: To Be... Remember Hamlet’s famous monologue? The man is faced with a complicated philosophical issue; he has to dot the i’s in his own life and determine man’s value in this sinful world. For Siranujsh, To Be... means the responsibility of enacting Hamlet, although neither critics nor audiences have believed that she would succeed for a long time.
Siranujsh’s success as Hamlet on stage can lead to countless allusions, including Sarah Bernhardt and her impersonation of Hamlet, even some metamorphosis in the Shakespearean tradition whereby all female parts were played by men. All this looks a manifesto proclaiming the female actor’s individuality, a strong personality, a new kind of Hamlet. We will learn all this from a monologue offered by a cleaning woman, who, in accordance with the solo performance’s plot, worked at the theater when Siranujsh was at the peak of her career. The overture is a middle-aged woman sweeping the floor and recalling past years. This outwardly standard mise-en- scene has a very special meaning, causing the audience to wonder about what is left after an actor’s successful impersonations followed by celebrations, publicity, etc. This is something kept secret within the theater’s walls, also kept by people who never walk out on stage but work backstage, as well as by stage props like the old chandelier used in Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, or the cleaning woman who finds a small heart in Andersen’s Brave Tin Soldier. In To Be... the cleaning woman is a living witness to all this. Larysa Kadyrova’s emotional trend in this performance is like a swinging pendulum, building tension with every new line uttered by the actor, ranging from the joys of success and sorrows of failure. The actor’s “They didn’t believe it!” sounds like a refrain, followed by “But I did it!” This leaves the audience convinced that all Shakespearean controversies are summed by the words To Be...
The cleaning woman recalls the way the actor was mistreated and portrays the surrounding world as a lasting competition between comedy and tragedy; there is always the possibility of a breakthrough in any tragedy. In contrast, any funny event may reveal a tragic aspect. The life of any actor is like a makeup room routine. Here eternity reigns supreme. People come and go, even the greatest actors eventually get tired and can no longer measure up. The only thing left is memory, and, to quote from dying Hamlet, “... the rest is silence.”