Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms

cabaret & variety · artel · Ages 16+ · United States

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June 16, 2014 certified reviewer

My overall impression

" Kharmful Charms or Daniil Kharms"
is a real jewel of a theatre experience. Charming and genuine.
The unique style of Daniil Kharms- who is considered by art historians the first absurdist in the world – has been rendered by Schkapfians in such authentic, amazing visual messages. The short stories/humoresques of Kharms seem to be tough to imagine in any “physical” representation because they are rooted in paradox, in play of words and meanings annihilating each other. Later European absurdists( Ionesco, Beckett, etc.) developed very refined aesthetics of visual language suiting their theatre; but how to transfer the meta-visual, playfully abstract substance of Kharms’ writings onto the stage without changing it into something more like Ionesco or Beckett and losing some of the pure undefinable Kharmsian quality? I was so delighted by seeing Olya Petrakova’s direction having succeeded with the task.
I still haven’t guessed how she did it. It might be her very intuitive approach, just following the very intonation of Kharms’ writings. Listening to the echoes they produce in the soul. When suddenly , interrupting the play of grotesque and buffoonery, a figure of the Soul herself appears moving across the stage, accompanied by strange-looking “angels” and singing an old Russian song, about herself and her loss, we get a glimpse of what is it about…It is about finding the true Kharmsian string. Olya Petrakova created a brilliant, very theatrical performance full of fun but it is also a subtle weavery of nuances and overtones. The writings of Kharms that are perhaps among the world’s strangest writings which “lose something in translation” seem to find here their plastic matrix, emerging as if from their pre-existence either in Kharms’ mind or in someone’s dream about the Kharms’ universe.
We see the fantastic cascade of wild old women in rugs, the pedestrians courting each other while fighting for the loaves of bread, the scary doctors, the helpless ladies in sentimental hats, the red devils who grab the others pulling them into asylum or prison or dark unknown…we know all of them are flooding from the Kharms’ reality of the Soviet 1920-s but maybe they are also coming from the deep of our own memory? They all present to us their funny attempts to hold onto something and not finding anything to hold onto, except for nothingness …They perform their bewilderment stories for us with such lightness and humor, so that we could laugh at seeing the world slightly turned, to show the dimensions that we are usually afraid to face but that surround us constantly, those of Death and Unreasonable and Unthinkable…After having received our shots and pushes into the sharper perception, we get a chance, at least for the time of the play, to be in possession of Daniil Kharms’ irony and wisdom…and we feel like shedding of our old skin, for some time…

Thank you for the wonderful work Theatre Schkapf!

Olga Volozova

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