The first who staged Rudolf Lotar in Russia was Alexander Tairov: In 1917 a premiere of “King Harlequin” took place at the Kamerny Theatre. It was only shown few times and soon banned by censorship. Since then theatre directors in Russia hasn’t approached this text. Furthermore, the Russian version of the play hasn’t been preserved even in the archives of Pushikin Theatre (previously Kamerny Theatre). Roman Viktyuk found six translations of the play in St. Petersburg Theatre Library. The folder, where texts were kept, was marked with “NO” in capital letters. But Viktyuk decided differently: according to him the play has not lost its vitality since the times it was written and therefore it’s time to bring it back on stage.
Being in love with Colombina, Harlequin kills the crown prince in jealousy. Trying to hide his crime, he decides to give himself out for the heir of the throne. After the king’s death, Harlequin takes his place and gladly starts to govern the affairs of the state, but soon he understands that the real ruler in the country is his “uncle” Tancred. And the King (not the real one) needs to play the role of pity puppet. The story of real and imaginary power Roman Viktyuk turned into a drama of opposition between a State and an Artist. On stage we see unbelievable tricks, eccentric, funny and, same time sad dialogues, which at times remind of street theatre. Brilliant artist and unsuccessful governor (Dmitry Bozin), he tosses about the treacherous and invulnerable masks trying to get out of intrigues and conspiracies. Who wins? Is it brilliant Harlequin or political intriguers? Is it a Talent or a faceless crowd, happily subordinating to any authority? Will the he succeed to remain himself and protect his love in this frightening wraith?
An excerpt from Arturo Toscanini’s rehearsal of “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi is used in the performance.
Director and music
Dramatis personae & performers
Bohemond, her son
Tancred, king’s brother
Geesa, his daughter
Prince Ezzo, Bohemond’s cousin
“King Harlequin brings us back to the very essence of theatre – performance and moral, nothing else. The characters arrive to the Osip Mandelstam’s idea, that “the power is repulsive like hands of a barber” relying on their own experience. Their release from the sticky web comes with almost a children’s sigh of surprise – it turns out to be quite easy to run away from “Koschei the Deathless” – just run, Harlequin, run faster, and we ‘ll blow your sail.”
Kseniya Larina, The “Novye Izvestia”