Staging a play ‘The Bathhouse’ by Vladimir Mayakovsky on a grand stage was an old-time creative ambition of the Alexandrinsky Theatre’s Principal Director Nikolai Roshchin.
It’s widely known that it was Vsevolod Meyerhold who commissioned Mayakovsky to write the play ‘The Bathhouse’ for staging it at GosTIM (Meyerhold State Theatre). Addressing to the audience during public discussions of ‘The Bathhouse’ in 1929, the former ranked the play equal to those of Moliere, Pushkin, Gogol: ‘This play is a foremost occurrence in the history of Russian theatre art, a greatest happening, for which we must first and foremost praise poet Mayakovsky. He contrived to yield us with an example of prose as masterful as verses… He is surely to begin a new era’. Mayakovsky’s answer to the question of the title interpretation was ambiguous. Version #1, which remains a naïve and straightforward interpretation of the play as uncovering and exposing, is that ‘bathhouse is where bureaucrats are cleaned (or, simply, washed out)’. Version #2 is ‘bathhouse is the only thing missing there’.
Mayakovsky himself defined the genre of ‘The Bathhouse’ as ‘satirical play with circus and fireworks’. Therefore, satirical message of Nikolai Roshchin’s production is uncertain, lacks concrete and easily definable details. The message can also hardly be ascribed to any period in history, bearing certain soul of macabre. It is no coincidence though, that performance begins with the interlude of performance approval by the Arts Council and its interrogations of misunderstood and ostracized theatre director – a scene that truly brings 1920s plot close to present days.
This production is going to be Nikolai Roshchin’s second rendition of this play by Vladimir Mayakovsky after January 2017 production for the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre. Although bearing new spacial and designing solutions, suitable for the Main Stage, the production, however, preserves original concepts of Meyerhold’s theatre – uniform costumes, atmosphere of a three-ring circus and tragic carnival – all rethought in a contemporary-theatre expression.
This is the first time ever that Vladimir Mayakovsky’s ‘The Bathhouse’ will be staged at the Main Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre.
Premiered on December 13, 2019