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Oleg Glushkov brings a Chekhovian world to NIDA

NIDA welcomed Oleg Glushkov to rehearsals as it continues its three-year partnership with the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS), Russia’s oldest and largest theatre school.

Rehearsal work in progress

Photo: Oleg Glushkov at NIDA.

NIDA welcomed Oleg Glushkov to rehearsals as it continues its partnership with the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS), Russia’s oldest and largest theatre school.

Over a week-long intensive, the GITIS graduate and choreographer worked with second-year Acting students on the Chekhovian world, in preparation for an October production.

Oleg, a contemporary choreographer and movement director, recently produced Anna Karenina in Russia and is choreographing the Broadway musical Hipsters, an adaptation of a famous Russian movie set in the 1950s about two small groups of teenagers in Moscow and St Petersburg. He is also a keen skateboarder!

‘I am excited to be here and I’m really enjoying the warm friendly atmosphere at NIDA,’ said Oleg. ‘A lot of our performance practice is based on our personal history and I was afraid initially that my Russian background would make it difficult to connect with the students as my childhood experience is so completely different to theirs. Of course there is a language barrier as well.

‘But actually this has not been the case. We can joke and have fun with each other. What is fun for me is fun for them as well!’

Creating a Chekhovian world

Rehearsal work in progress

Photo: rehearsal work in progress with second-year Acting students.

‘We’re working around the Chekhovian world, using Chekhov’s action and material and his four plays, Uncle Vanya, The Seagull, Three Sisters, and Ivanov. But while it is necessary for the students to know these plays, we are cutting them up into small pieces and mashing them up into an experience which includes a lot of movement and images’.

Oleg explained that contemporary Russian directors are approaching Chekov using new methods and trying to deconstruct his plays. ‘We are looking at Chekhov from a new view which is what I find interesting, away from the focus on the costumes and how they are walking on stage,’ he said. ‘Chekhov was like a Russian treasure and everyone was really careful about the treasure, careful not to touch it for fear of ruining it. Now it’s more acceptable to change it and place contemporary practice around it.’

Oleg said the piece is devised with the students in all stages of the production. ‘I’m interested in sharing the responsibility of performance-making with the students,’ he said.

Rehearsal approach

Oleg’s rehearsal process includes exploring scene work and creating group scenes with props and costumes an integral part of the process from the very beginning. Movement is integral to his process.

‘Every director has to decide on the importance of movement for themselves,’ he said. ‘If you want to create a performance with movement you need to create a new language, but there are no rules. For some directors the exactness of movement is not important because they work with the ideas and words. On the other hand you have directors who use movement for expression with unusual, artificial movement.’

‘For me, movement as a language is very important. It’s also about images that can be created on stage when we see ‘freeze positions’ – for instance a drop of water, somebody playing the violin and somebody drinking tea.’

‘I have also introduced music into the pieces as this is very important in the Chekhovian world. The plays take part in the countryside with people often performing music or playing instruments. So I have asked the students to play or sing, but as actors and not as musicians. Just like the ordinary people in the Chekhovian world.’

Oleg Glushkov will return to NIDA in October.

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