Culture News, 18/06/2017

Aeneas Is a Woman on Kharkiv Stage

Eneida, the show by Arabesky theater, was reinvented on Kharkiv stage. It was done in response to the 7th International Book Arsenal Festival request, as well as on the occasion of 175 years anniversary of Ivan Kotliarevsky Eneida publication.  “Laugh, fear, strength”, the central theme of the festival, is characteristic of the Arabesky show also.

Arabesky is one of the oldest Kharkiv non-governmental theaters. It was founded by students of Kharkiv state university of arts in 1993. First years, the troupe was mostly doing laboratory work, constant vocal, dance training, etc. Only in 1997, Kharkiv spectators saw Eneida. Arabesky director Svitlana Oleshko recalls: “We were looking for the answer to the main question ‘What Ukrainian theater should be?’”. Ivan Kotliarevsky Eneida is considered a beginning of modern Ukrainian literary language. This baroque poem was based on Virgil’s Aeneid, but all acting figures were shown as Ukrainian Cossacks; classic tragedy became a witty travesty. Thus, Arabesky tried to declare sort of new theater manifest. “We thought that Kotliarevsky theater was amusing, reviving and absolutely not provincial”, Svitlana Oleshko says.

Critics and spectators enjoyed the Arabesky show. The classic text of Ivan Kotliarevsky was adopted by Serhiy Zhadan. The aim was to return Virgil atmosphere, so the poet used a rhythmic form of original Aeneid, dactylic hexameter. Looking deeper into the show structure, we can see the exceptional mix of poetry, folklore music, and modern dance. Political Carnival, black humor, feminisms are the main motives of the Arabesky interpretation.

Updated edition has the same structure and themes, but the text is read by two performers not acting on a stage. Misko Barbara and Natalia Tsymbal (Aeneas in the first edition of Arabesky show) are hiding; we only can hear their melodic Ukrainian speech and singing. Young actors, Olena Homutetska (Aeneas) and Yaroslav Podshyvalov, Yaroslav Voitenko, Diana Kiprach, Dmytro Herasymchuk (other characters) play, dance and perform in silence.

The English speaking visitor should not be afraid that show is dependent on the Ukrainian language; a lot of Ukrainian folk songs, great plastic dance work, burlesque, tons of bright non-verbal humor and dynamism help to understand it without words and subtitles.

Text: Veronika Sklyarova
Photo: Maria Slobodenuk