I tend to have mixed experiences with non-traditional theatre performances. Sometimes, modernist productions strike me as pointless and pretentious. The Moscow Vakhtangov Theatre’s Rimas Tuminas-directed expressionist version of Eugene Onegin, however, is a triumph, capturing the spirit of Pushkin’s great poem in a way a more traditional interpretation would hardly expect to.
With two actors playing Onegin – a young, black-clad individual and a sadder and wiser older man – and a hugely talented, heartbreakingly moving Tatiana (Eugeniya Kregzhde), the story follows the track of the poem, from Onegin’s initial friendship with Lensky and the duo’s visits to Olga and Tatiana’s estate, through to the fatal duel and the subsequent rejection of Onegin by Tatiana. Adomas Jacovskis’ set is simple but gorgeous, with a mirrored backdrop and basic but effective props, like Tatiana’s metal bed and the ingeniously-designed stagecoach.
After a huge emotional journey, the end of the production is deeply moving. My only criticism is of the surtitles: I was sitting at the far end of the Upper Circle, and the green surtitles were sometimes obscured by the lighting. This was slightly distracting, but not as much as it might have been, as it was possible to follow the gist of the performance without knowing exactly what they were saying. Altogether, a powerful evening of theatre.