Celebration of the human spirit

Veteran director Roman Viktiuk actually does bring us two plays from Russia, with love.

The maids_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The maids_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Russian stage director Roman Viktiuk returns to Israel with two of his most famous works – The Maids by Jean Genet and Salomé, after Oscar Wilde. This is not the first time that Viktiuk’s theater company will visit our shores, but until recently it appealed only to the local Russianspeaking community. This time, it was decided to add Hebrew surtitles to the plays, and for good reason: Viktiuk’s Maids has been touring the globe for 25 years, so the Israeli public certainly deserves to have access to his work.
In a phone interview from Tomsk, where his theater is on tour, the 75- year-old Viktiuk speaks about his artistic views. Although an eight-hour flight separates Tel Aviv from this old Siberian city, one can almost physically feel waves of love emanating from this special person.
“Nothing much has changed in our cultural life since the fall of the communist regime. We artists are still under pressure,” complains the director. ”Once it was ideological censorship, and now it is all about the people with big money who define our cultural life. What they are interested in is only light entertainment for the masses, and I think this is even worse because it is all about the sinister facet of human nature. And true art has always rebelled against it because artists knew that this was the road to destruction.”
What is important for Viktiuk in theater is “Fighting this new materialism, this cynicism; keeping in our repertoire pieces of the authors – Russian, but not only – who followed the humanistic tradition and dedicated their art to the celebration of the human spirit; and to nurture my artists in the spirit of love.”
He confides that his esthetic principles are those of the Silver Age and of Russian avant-garde culture of the beginning of the 20th century. “This is a religious, a sacred aesthetic, which is still in demand because of lack of spirituality in our reality.”
Born in the ancient city of Lvov in the western Ukraine, which boasts a rich and long-standing culture that flourished there due to the city’s unique geographical position at the crossroads of civilizations, Viktiuk saw staging Genet’s programmatic piece as a challenge and a must. “Genet, who fought spiritual slavery, was seen as public enemy #1 by the Soviet authorities. But my heart told me that I had to do it – and I did it. For 25 years now, our Maids has been touring the world, appearing in soldout theater halls. ‘Slaves are unable to love,’ screams our show, ‘they can only hate.’” Another piece the theater is performing is Salomé, after Oscar Wilde. “I was interested not only in the piece itself but also in Oscar Wilde’s life story and, above all, his trial. We received new unpublished documents, which we used in our show. As a result, Oscar Wilde is the central character of the piece.
During the trial he writes the play and thinks of what he would say to the man who betrayed him and eventually threw him in prison. And he realizes that the only thing he can say is that love is still his essence. And this is exactly what our show says: love!
The plays have been translated into Hebrew by Israeli Opera stage director Julia Pevzner.

The Maids: May 28 Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem; May 29 Heichal Hatarbut in Ashkelon; June 2 the Northern Theater, Kiryat Haim; June 4 TAPAC in Tel Aviv.

Salomé: May 31 Heichal Hatarbut, Beersheba; June 1 Rappoport Center, Haifa; June 3 TAPAC in Tel Aviv.