After four years of a strict travel ban, Russian theater director Kirill Serebrennikov was allowed to leave the country – to stage the play "The Black Monk to finish rehearsals at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater.
by Peter Helling
Freedom, says Kirill Serebrennikov, is always inside him, he doesn’t get it from outside. For one and a half years he was under house arrest in Moscow – the accusation: embezzlement of funds. He has used the time, read brick-heavy books and written plays. "I thought about what it is like to live instead of dying", he says.
He was also able to work within his own four walls, via Zoom. But after four years of a strict travel ban, he has now been able to leave Russia to stage directly on location again, at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater.
Precision and anarchy
Kirill Serebrennikov sits in the middle of the stalls, surrounded by his team. On stage, monks in long black robes turn in circles, wind noises lie over the scene, and videos in the style of expressionist silent films are projected onto circular wooden discs. "The play ‘The Black Monk’ arose from the idea that Chekhov’s last words before his death were ‘I am dying’, in German! Why?"
Synchronous gestures full of force, precision and anarchy, both in constant dialogue. Dancers, singers, actresses: The ensemble is Russian-German, from the Thalia Theater also Mirco Kreibich is part of it: "It’s about a man who stands on the edge, between truth and lie, between past and future", tells Serebrennikov. "He has to find out where his madness lies – and where his normality lies."
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The Russian star director Kirill Serebrennikov is at rehearsals of "The Black Monk" arrived at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg. more
Kirill Serebrennikov: "I love paradoxes"
A good story for the time after Corona, says the director: when we all have to rebuild our lives again. Because somehow our limited present is a single paradox that brings us close to madness.
"I love paradoxes, confesses Serebrennikov. "Art always works on the level of the paradox, I search for the poetry of the paradox, its essence, I want to visualize it. Paradox brings us close to madness – but I like madness because it allows us to reinvent the very rigid system of man."
Kirill Serebrennikov wants to break down walls
English, German, Russian language fragments echo through the hall: Kirill Serebrennikov’s play is multilingual: That, he says, has always been important to him, that theater does not stop at any language border. Music, dance, videos – he wants to break down walls.
Kirill Serebrennikov wears a watch on his right wrist, but the watch consists only of a frame without a dial – like a timepiece without time: "I live from day to day. In my experience, the best strategy is to live in the moment: Here I am, I am in Hamburg, I am working, I am doing what I find most beautiful in the whole world. We make theater together, with a group of very talented people at one of the best theaters in the world. And that is it." He calls himself a workhorse. He does not want to think too much about feelings.
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"I will definitely go back"
He does not know how the sudden decision for his departure was made. Maybe he was a "good boy, he says with a smile. The decision was made shortly after the New Year. He had, as before, applied to leave the country in order to work for some time.
Kirill Serebrennikov chooses his words carefully. But when asked if he will return to Russia, he responds firmly: "You can count on me. The people who allowed me to go out may have risked a lot too. I don’t want to be a bastard who just whistles at it. I go back in any case. Because I must."
He is still asked whether he is afraid? Clear answer: "No.
"A protest is the attempt to say: We are many!"
Today the verdict against the director Kirill Serebrennikow was passed in Moscow. Actor Lars Eidinger, who is a friend of his, has long been campaigning for an acquittal. more