Michael Gibson, a Creative Director and Advertising Consultant, based in Moscow addresses these questions.
Michael describes the rich variety of productions that are now being created in Moscow as being a grass roots phenomenon. "We see the venues where Russians can see English language productions growing. Previously you might wait for successful productions coming from the UK, brought over by well-known artists, but now it is not just down to visiting artists, there are troupes of actors and drama schools who are putting on English productions in some cases with semi-professional actors and in other cases with amateurs. But in all cases, standards are very high, so it is an interesting time."
Audiences are now not only interested in the classics. Michael elaborates: "For example, ‘A Brilliant Thing', which is about mental illness, is being put on to sold-out audiences. The ‘Dumb Waiter' is also being shown soon, as is ‘A Treasure island' which is slightly more for children, so there are three productions on just over the next three weeks, and there are others in the pipeline."
The productions are mainly directed by English people, Michael explains. "The producers may be English or Russian, but all of these productions, for example, are directed by English people. There is another production coming up soon called ‘Terrorism', which is quite interesting. This is a Russian play which was translated into English, and was originally performed in the UK and London, and now being performed in Moscow. That is being staged by a very good English-speaking Russian team."
The audience in Moscow, Michael says is made of the usual ‘theatre going crowd'. "Moscow has a thriving theatre scene, which is phenomenal. There is a curiosity to see stuff in English where it is available. Anyone who can speak English is looking for an opportunity to practice English. There is also a very active children's scene, it is a very good way for kids to be exposed to English….Moscow theatre goers are open to new experiences and to try new things, and when these plays come out they are literally sold out."
This real interest in English language dramatical productions in Moscow comes at a time when East-West relations are at a low ebb, but this does not seem to make a big difference. Michael says: "Culture is all about building bridges. People who go to theatres are not thinking about the barriers and the walls, they are interested in having experiences and language and culture comes to life." For these people, England is not Theresa May and Brexit, rather culture and language. "We need more conversations about culture, because obviously Brexit and Theresa May dominate the airwaves, but let's get rid of all that and get down to something with a bit more soul and meaning and depth….We are in a year of cultural exchange between Russia and England at the moment, there is an exhibition of London painters on in the Pushkin Art gallery in Moscow right now, which is phenomenally good. I almost think that the Moscow curators did a better job than ever, putting on a show of Freud, Bacon and various others' works. Many of my friends have gone to see it and they have been very excited by it. There again, culture builds bridges. It gets people talking, and sharing experiences and understanding that we have a lot more in common than differences."
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