The Fairground Booth



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Meyerhold

"The Fairground Booth" was presented in Moscow in 1906. Written by Alexander Blok the production was a collaboration between the Theatre director Meyerhold and Blok himself. The outline of the play involves three main characters Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin plus other players like the author and a group of what is called the mystics. Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin are stock characters from the Italian Commedia Dell Arte but also their is a distinctive Russian turn to the play involving the supposed Russian equivalent of Pierrot - Petrushka. Peterushka was a puppet much in the style of Punch and Judy and feature in the fairground shows which were popular in Russia in the 18th and 19th Century. Copernicus films is planning to shoot an adaptation of this play as well as two other documentary films - The Carnival and Russian Theatre as well as a film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. These films will form a single project about Russian Theatre in the early twentieth century.


Why the Fairground Booth

Reasons for filming this play


Why "The Fairground Booth" or "The Puppet Show" as it sometimes is called - "Balaganchik" in Russian. Well if you acknowledge that carnival has had an enormous influence on Russian theatre especially at the beginning of the 20th century then "The Fairground Booth" is the play which really underlined this fact. It was one of those watershed plays or theatrical events which defined the future and broke with the past. Alexander Blok's play and his cooperation with Meyerhold in "The Fairground Booth" served as a link between the symbolism of the early twentieth century and the revolution in culture and technology and society - it was the nexus between the old and the new theatre.

From this perspective, to pair a film about Vahktangov, carnival and "The Fairground Booth" makes sense. Each film will stand on its own but each film will inform the other. Moreover it will also sit well against the two films already completed about Russian theatre: "Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde" and "Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre". This will make up a series of five films covering an area which is less explored than say the theatre of Chekhov.

The connections will become clear over time as each film begins to develop. I will be charting the progress and development of these films here and in blogs and in a series of background video blogs across the internet. Some may claim that Blok's Fairground Booth is just a curiosity piece or not a classic drama. In subsequent blogs I will try and argue otherwise that it is as much of a classic as any play by Chekhov, Shakespeare or Ibsen and deserves its place in the history of world theatre. Blok's play paved the way for a new kind of theatre which relied less on naturalism and explored other means of expression.

However the question still arises why Blok and the "Balaganchik" and why now. Russian society and culture was changing at a rapid pace, to some extent this is still true of Russia. Any attempt to hold a mirror up to nature so to speak was then doomed to failure. Naturalism was ill equipped to deal with reality at the beginning of the 20th century. Events move on a at staggering pace. How does one reflect reality of the then Russia, how does one come to terms with it. One way is through masks and masquerades, to widen the expressive possibilties of what was then a narrrowly defined view of the role of theatre and the content it should portray.

2 comments:

  1. I will be quizzed on The Fairground Booth today for my Theater class and found this to be useful, so thank you :D

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    1. Thanks, glad to be of help. Hope it went well. There will be a whole book about The Fairground Booth sometime I hope next year

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