Clowning around

Fyodor Makarov and the Davai group present ‘Under Construction’

Fyodor Makarov and the Davai group present ‘Under Construction’ (photo credit: TANYA KARAVAN)
Fyodor Makarov and the Davai group present ‘Under Construction’
(photo credit: TANYA KARAVAN)
Looking at clown Fyodor Makarov, who together with his partners from the Davai group Losha Gavrielov and Vitaly Azarin, presents the fascinating show Under Construction, you’d never believe he was a third-generation Russian Jewish intellectual. A classic prole from George Orwell’s novel 1984 – his eyes vacant, his face dumb, his body stiff.
His partners are the same.
The storyline of Under Construction is simple. Three men wake up in the morning in a state of ultimate hangover, trying to figure out where they are and who they are. The only thing they desperately need is a cup of tea, but that simple task turns into mission impossible. Everything falls apart, nothing functions as it is supposed to, and things are not what they seem. The show is hysterically funny – its creators showcase wild fantasy and virtuoso clownery – but also thrilling and even slightly painful. Because it doesn’t take long to realize that what we see is not what we think but a profound metaphor of human existence, with its insecurity and our inability to understand the world around us.
Makarov was born in Moscow into a literary milieu. His grandparents were prominent poets of the post WW II generation, his was father a writer of children’s books, and his mother was a renowned researcher of artwork from Theresienstadt.
Makarov grew up in an atmosphere of veneration of the word.
“From my childhood, I remember my grandparents’ friends getting together and reading and discussing their poems. But I had enough of words and was looking for a means of silent self-expression,” Makarov explains about his path to clownery.
But not so fast. Already at five he had wanted to become a clown (“But my parents were told at the circus school that it was too early”), as well as a conductor (he plays several instruments or, more precisely, everything that he turns into such) and study languages (“I think I speak seven”).
Arriving in Israel at the age of 14, he delved into translation.
“I first translated verses by Russian absurdist poet Dani’il Charms into Hebrew for my Israeli girlfriend and stayed with translation for a while,” he recounts.
But that was not enough. He later enrolled at the Hebrew University to study philosophy but dropped out following a disagreement with the professor about the nature of logic.
He studied photography and also wanted to become a set designer – “but I stepped onstage and just got hooked.”
Visiting his native Moscow with some of his shows, Makarov caught the attention of legendary Francebased Russian clown Slava Polunin, whose Snowshow has been running on Broadway for years (as well as coming to Israel a few times). As a result, for 10 years Makarov took part in Polunin’s show.
“Living with a joyous mission, that is what I think I have learned from Slava, in addition to professional skills. People are not so happy, and I’m no different. Something is aching inside of us. I try to distract people and help them forget their problems for a while. And maybe even take a breath and think about their lives,” he says.
His partners from the Davai Group (which means “Let’s do it!” in Russian) are artists in their own right, who came to Israel in their teens. As such, they see their identity as an amalgam of being both Russian and cosmopolitan. They create together but also run their own projects, performing for audiences of all ages.
Their home is in the Florentine neighborhood of Tel Aviv, where studios of young and aspiring bohemians neighbor with artists’ workshops. The small Davai studio seats some two dozen spectators, turning the shows into an unforgettable intimate theater experience. But they also perform around the country. After returning from their Mexican tour, Davai will present Under Construction on November 20 at ZOA House in Tel Aviv and November 23 at the Jaffa Theater.
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