John Freedman in conversation with Noah Birksted-Breen

Laura Ludtke

As a part of its online programme and in collaboration with the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, the 2020 International Online Theatre Festival, hosted by the Theatre Times screened five of the Electrotheatre's productions. To accompany this collaboration, on 6 May, Alma Prelec, the festival's Artistic Director, chaired a conversation with John Freedman and Dr Noah Birksted-Breen. Noah and John discussed contemporary Russian theatre and politics, the re-launching of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, and the influence of its artistic director, Boris Yukhananov.

John Freedman in conversation with Noah Birkstead-Breen

2013 was a ‘surprising year’ in Russian theatre. After becoming the artistic director of the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre in Moscow, Boris Yukhananov announced he was closing the theatre for two years of renovation and modernisation. Yukhananov, a notoriously elusive and experimental director and educator, re-launched the theatre as the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre in early 2015. Before the theatre’s official opening later that autumn, Yukhananov invited the Greek director Theodoros Terzopoulous to stage his production of The Bacchae in the newly designed space. Since then, the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre has staged over 50 new productions, 20 of which have been world debuts, as well as an ambitious programme of events, ranging from lectures, readings, and masterclasses, that make use of the re-designed theatre.

Through his directorship at the Electrotheatre, Yukhananov sees himself continuing the work of the renown Russian theatre practitioner K. S. Stanislavsky (after whom the theatre was named), bringing together opera and drama. Yukhananov's monumental vision has transformed the contemporary theatre scene in Moscow and, the last five years have been a period of high productivity and collaboration. Under the tutelage of musical director Dmitri Kourliandski, the ElectroTheatre is also incubating young talent, commissioning over a dozen new operas from emerging, contemporary artists.

A Q&A session followed John’s conversation with Noah.

John Freedman is a writer, translator, former theatre critic, and, currently, assistant to Boris Yukhananov, the artistic director at the Electrotheatre Stanislavsky in Moscow.

Dr Noah Birksted-Breen is a Teaching Fellow in Drama at Queen Mary University of London and a Post-doctoral Researcher with Creative Multilingualism.