The Genius - or the methods of acting in nine pictures

Translated by  György Spiró

Whether the founder of the Art Theatre, the giant of universal theatre, Konstantin Stanislavskiy, actually visited Stalin in the winter of 1937, there is no reliable record. But he could have been, because everything else that is the historical background to this hour-and-a-half-long play by Słobodzianek is true. It is true that Stalin persecuted Meyerhold - by then a world-famous director - had his theatre closed down, and that he was able to work for a while under the protective wing of the elderly Stanislavskiy.
And indeed, according to the play, after Stanislavskiy's death, Meyerhold was arrested and executed, and his wife was murdered in a robbery.
The focus of the play is a single situation, an imaginary conversation between Stalin and Stanislavsky: the elderly master instructs the dictator in a series of situational exercises on how to appear more effective as an autocrat, how to create even greater terror - and in return asks for clemency for some artists, especially Meyerhold.
The play is a duel between a cautious and cunning theatre old man and an even more cunning autocrat who covers his paranoia well. And the viewer can try to find out: is the dictator really so familiar with the theatrical-literary ins and outs of the time, with the aesthetic and positional struggles? What drives his decisions in the culture war, his personal politics?
The Polish playwright Słobodzianek, whose play Our Class was made famous by the Katona. In this play, too, he interrogates the cultural past with contemporary questions, which he presents in detail with authentic facts. Kerzhavtsev, the main critic, was a real person: his life is a good example of the type that still exists today, a statesman who adapted his opinions to the wishes of the authorities. And there was also the dark past of Poskryobichev, the all-powerful secretary.
I hope that this work, born of depressing, horrific facts, will be a lively, entertaining and wryly humorous performance at the Kamra.


Tamás Ascher