donka: a letter to chekhov - 2011 - Perth International Arts Festival
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donka: a letter to chekhov - 2011 - Perth International Arts Festival

4 November 2010: For Immediate ReleaseAustralian Premiere/Australian ExclusiveDONKA: A LETTER TO CHEKHOV(Switzerland/Russia)Teatro Sunil and Chekhov International Theatre FestivalWritten and directed by Daniele Finzi PascaA visually sumptuous and playful homageLose yourself in a physically spellbinding, dreamy production inspired by Anton Chekhov’s plays anddiaries, told through the language of elegantly decadent clowns, jugglers and the magical world ofacrobats.Created for a wide audience, Donka: A Letter to Chekhov was commissioned to open the prestigiousChekhov International Theatre Festival in 2010, premiering to overwhelming popular and criticalacclaim, including a thunderous 15-minute standing ovation from European theatregoers.Perth Festival Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza said: "Don't miss this beautiful, magical tribute to thespirit, life and musings of Chekhov, one of the most important voices in theatre."Donka: A Letter to Chekhov is writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca’s homage to Russia’s greatestplaywright, the man who wrote The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya and The Seagull. This irresistiblyromantic, tender and humorous work enchants with imaginative costumes, elegant and charismatic setdesign and magnificent music that ranges from symphonic to traditional Russian folksongs.Using the language of elegantly decadent clowns, jugglers and the delicate and magical world ofacrobats, this physically spellbinding production draws on the plots of Chekhov’s plays as well as hisshort stories and personal diaries.Daniele Finzi Pasca is an elite talent in the world of physical theatre and circus arts. Self-described as adirector, author, choreographer and clown, he is the founder of Switzerland’s Teatro Sunil and hasbeen involved in the production of over 25 highly acclaimed shows.Among a wealth of highlights, his work Rain, created for Cirque Eloize, won Broadway’s Drama DeskAward, and Corteo, which he created and directed for Cirque de Soleil, has been performed for morethan 3 million people and closed the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turino.Donka: A Letter to Chekhov is an exploration of the Chekhov’s multifaceted genius. Unhappy thatChekhov’s humour had been lost in modern productions of his works – which presented his plays asonly social dramas – Finzi Pasca approached his homage with an eye to revealing the dramatist’stragicomedy and multiplicity. –continues -

He has more than succeeded, creating a deeply moving and highly entertaining work that will makeyou laugh and cry, think and feel with incredible depth. This major coup for Perth Festival is anAustralian Premiere and Australian Exclusive and has toured Russia, France, Canada, Mexico andBrazil.Starts from the heart in order to arrive at the heart, allowing the essence of the Russian author toreach the spectator through the power of poetry and imagination. CORRIERE DEL TICINIThe inebriation of nostalgia, the magic of amazement, or the chaos of madness … They are allaspects of a vast and sublime poem, made up of the material of our dreams, interpreted by eightexpert actors and put into music. 24 HEURESWHEN: Sat 12 & Tue 15–Sat 19 Feb, 7.30pm: Sun 13 Feb, 5pm; Sat 19 Feb, 2pm2hrs 10min including intervalWHERE: His Majesty’s TheatreBOOKINGS AND FESTIVAL INFO: 6488 5555 • byFor further information, interviews or images please contact:Rania GhandourJoanna Trilling+61 8 6488 8618 / 0403 025535 +61 8 6488 8637/ 0421 351 International Arts FestivalFounded in 1953 by The University of Western Australia, the Perth International Arts Festival is thelongest running international arts festival in Australia and Western Australia’s premier culturalevent. The Festival has developed a worldwide reputation for excellence in its international program,the presentation of new works and the highest quality artistic experiences for its audience. For over50 years the Festival has welcomed to Perth some of the world’s greatest living artists and nowconnects with over 800,000 people each year.Shelagh Magadza is the Artistic Director 2008-11.-ends-

BackgroundTeatro Sunil Theatre CompanyTeatro Sunil is based in Lugano and was founded by Daniele Finzi Pasca in 1983.Teatro Sunil has produced plays with a common aesthetic line. They have been performed in overtwenty countries. The universe of the actor and the tragicomic dancer constitutes the central pillar ofthe company's productions. A vision of the clown's universe is presented which is particular, but whichnonetheless is close to the tradition. The characters and epic tales are told with the simplicity of theuniversal language common to the clown.The steady core of the theatre company is composed of Daniele Finzi Pasca, Maria Bonzanigo, DanieleFinzi Pasca, Marco Finzi Pasca, Hugo Gargiulo, Dolores Heredia and Antonio Vergamini with also AnaHeredia, Nicola Marinoni, Mauro Mozzani, Rolando Tarquini and Beatriz Sayad.Besides the production and performance of plays, Teatro Sunil runs a research laboratory where apersonal approach to the world of the clown is devised. This work and the development thereof arepresented to the public in form of seminars in theatre academies and universities.A small utopia ties the members of the company together. This utopia shows in the subjects andatmosphere of the more than twenty shows produced throughout the years.The Chekhov International Theatre FestivalThe Chekhov International Theatre Festival was established by the International Confederation ofTheatre Associations. The First Festival was held in the fall of 1992. In the beginning its program wasfocused on those who in a large measure contributed to the splendid accomplishments of theatrearound the world. The Chekhov Festivals is also a space for exchanging ideas and experiences,meetings with artists, round-tables, readings of plays. The Ninth Chekhov International TheatreFestival is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Anton Chekhov. Its program contains productions‘after Chekhov, about Chekhov and to Chekhov’.It is traditionally held in Moscow in the summer but this year is a special one marking the 150thanniversary of the writer's birth. The organizers decided to expand the festival's geography. From April9 through June 5, outstanding theater directors will premiere their new productions on provincialstages. Russia describes the sense of the large-scale programme drawn up for the 150 th birthdayanniversary of the Great Russian writer, Anton Chekhov as a unique chance for revealing the potentialof Chekhov's multifaceted heritage.May 16-17 Daniele Finzi Pasca - director, choreographer and clown from Lugano - presented "Donka:A Letter To Chekov", a play written specifically for the anniversary in the form of a letter to Chekhov,

at the stage of the Young Spectators' Theater in Ekaterinburg. The play is based on the plots ofChekov's works and diaries.Press QuotesI am the collector of moments, small details and subtle nuances. My theatre is the theatre of imagesthat form layers upon layers and not always line up one after another. More often than not they callup specific objects, drop hints and we pretend to believe that all this is happening in real life. I likesilence, pauses, the moments of waiting, probably because all these years I have been striving toachieve the sense of lightness on stage. In much the same fashion I approached Chekhov. I was tryingto fathom some subtle details and nuances both in the story of his life and in the pages of his works.But this is not all.I wished to give shape to the silence contained in his diaries, to create images on the basis of hisnotes.My theatre speaks in the language of clowns and jugglers; it embraces the delicate and magicalworld of acrobats. With their help I shall invoke the reminiscences about Chekhov and for thispurpose I shall keep the company of the artists I have worked with for many years. We share notonly the same sense of beauty and the notion of theatre. We share the passionate desire to protect therealm of our imagination. This play will consist of tragically fragile objects that will be meltingslowly like ice in the sun, like wax. Our performers will be keeping their balance in a dangerousdance. There will be clowns, poetic and decadent, yet always unfailingly elegant. There will be livemusic, played on various instruments, a symphony orchestra and a beautiful choir. There will beplenty of white, probably slightly tinted with light blue. There will be tiny and barely visible drops ofblood as symptoms of the ailment that was devouring the writer and tormenting him with fits ofcoughing. There will be beds in a country clinic, ravens and other birds. There will be the sound ofthe wind stirring the branches. There will be a child, its chest being burned by fever. There will besounds of the church bells, patients under bed sheets, actors playing actors... Maybe there will befire... and loneliness... the orchard, the lake and the tiny bell, its jingling implying that the fish has atlast swallowed the bait.There is fish that dwells in deep water. You can’t catch it with ordinary fishing rod and a float. Whatyou need is a weighted line for bottom fishing. In Russian they are called “donkas”. That was how wecame up with the name for our production – an instrument that Chekhov used when he needed tomull things over.Daniele Finzi PascaI decided to discover Chekhov looking for particulars and details, both in his life and in the pages ofhis writings, and not only that. I thought of giving shape to the silences contained in the notes of his

diaries and of creating images from his annotations. I come from a theatre deeply impregnated withthe language of clowns, of jugglers, from the delicate and magical world of acrobats. That is how I willrecall Chekhov and to do it I will surround myself with the same accomplices as always, creators withwhom I have worked for years and with whom I share not only the same sense of aesthetics and way ofthinking of the theatre, but also the passionate way of defending our imaginary world.Daniele Finzi Pasca‘Fishermen and poets. In drawing close to Checkov, Finzi Pasca has performed a small miracle. Theacrobats, singers, jugglers and clowns of his company have been transformed into real “Checkovianintellectuals”, but at the same time remaining themselves, our own contemporaries with today’s wishesand dreams. The subtitle of Donka is “A Letter to Checkov”, and the show really does seem to be abeautiful and unfinished letter, in which reflections and emotions are superimposed and move ondifferent levels between the lines, like a vision or a prophecy. It is really unbelievable how all thisrefined and decadent madness, all this “madhouse” is transformed into a tender and penetrating tragicomedy,similar to the works of Checkov, with his eternal students, his doctors who sing theTarabumbia, and his girls who continue to mourn for all their lives. But Finzi Pasca manages to “findthe kind of silence that one feels in Checkov’s diaries”. And at the end when the loneliness of the crowd(a playful duel of siphons, in which the actorsspray each other with water) gives way to the man lying on his bed, who is then covered with a clown’scolourful costume, it brings tears to your eyes. How nice it is that Donka returns to the Russian capitalon the occasion of the “big” Checkoyian Festival.’Gazeta - Maja Krylova4 February 2010‘Something of Checkov in every one of us. Soon Donka and its marvellous images will take flight forRussia. The show will take part in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Checkov’s birth. In factthe shows at Vidy were a dress rehearsal, but certainly not a rough copy. Daniele Finzi Pasca’s showsadapt themselves to the public, because that’s how he makes them work. Donka talks to us. Ratherthan a reading of Checkov’s work, it is more a dialogue between the Italo-Ticinese universe of DanieleFinzi Pasca and that of the Russian author.It is not, however, a case of tête-à-tête. The producer takes account of the experiences of the people heworks with and opens the door of the public’s imagination, as if he were collecting pictures from an oldfamily album which could just as well be ours. This is something which we understand right from thebeginning, starting from the story of the rich Russian baron who built a castle at Lugano in the 19thcentury, which is told on the proscenium. There is of course something of Checkov in each of us, andalso something of the childhood of Daniele Finzi Pasca. And then what is there more universal thanthis theatre of shadows where the immense laps up the tiny?

We are in Russia, we are in Checkov’s house, among his works and his life. There are three youngpeople – three sisters - on a swing, Konstantin (of The Seagull) who tries to die on stage, an ice-skater(in an incredible act of false awkwardness), ice sculptures which shatter… There is also Checkov’sdouble life of writer and doctor, with the hospitals, his sickness, his curiosity for the mysteries of thebody and the spirit…Donka is also the music of Maria Bonzanigo, who dares to emphasize. And then there is the humour. Itculminates in an act of trick acrobatics, a funny version of the theory of Plato’s cave. Because one canalso be entertaining, dreamy, magic, and still say many things. That is the charm of Donka.’Le Temps - Elisabeth ChardonSaturday 16 January 2010‘Sublime homage to Checkov. Daniele Finzi Pasca’s Donka shines at Vidy. The first merit of thedirector is that he has shown various aspects of Checkov who was displeased at the time to see hisplays, which he considered comedies, performed only as social dramas. Comedy therefore in Donka,both in the performance and in the script, in which we find quotations of Checkov and memories of thedirector’s childhood. But also the inebriation of nostalgia, the magic of amazement, or the chaos ofmadness. They are all aspects of a vast and sublime visual poem, made up of the material of ourdreams, interpreted by eight expert actors and put into music, at times impressively, by MariaBonzanigo. Irresistable.’24 Heures - Michel Caspary14 January 2010‘Triumphant opening night of the new Daniele Finzi Pasca show. Donka is a show which starts fromthe heart in order to arrive at the heart, allowing the essence of the Russian author to reach thespectator through the power of poetry and imagination. In this way a collage of moments in movementis created with intelligence and deep sensitivity, a “theatre of lightness” performed by a group of actorswho provide emotions mixed with extraordinary talent as well as an enviable technical perfection.Memorable scenes and surprises follow each other, and in every one the spectator can find that whichidentifies the fragility of dreams, from graceful movements to unveiled tricks, and from the carefullyand meticulously arranged lighting effects to the musical score of Maria Bonzanigo which, from asimple and catchy theme repeated all through the show with multiple variations, often creates acinematographic effect. The biggest surprise of Donka, which is a complex show with a very richdramatic structure, is the lightness and elegance with which everything is presented on stage.’Corriere del Ticino - Giorgio Thoeni14 January 2010

‘Donka opened on Tuesday at the Théâtre Vidy at Lausanne and was acclaimed by the public with along applause, at first emotional and participating, then increasingly warmer and more enthusiastic.The bet has therefore paid off: the biggest theatrical production ever made in Ticino is a scenic jewel,tender and precious as well as being solid. From a set design point of view, Hugo Gargiulo worksmainly with curtains (truly all types), backgrounds, lights and projections (some of which are mostevocative) to create a warm atmosphere, dominated by pastel colours, which is perfectly supported byGiovanna Buzzi’s tasteful and functional period costumes; and for her beautiful and suggestivelywoven musical and rhythmical score which underlines the drama of the show, Maria Bonzanigo shouldbe considered co-author. But the really strong point of Donka is the international cast. There are eightof them, extraordinary actors, who Finzi Pasca has surrounded himself with. Donka is thereforeCheckov according to Finzi Pasca. A series of suggestions based on his life and his works, but subtleand vanishing enough to evaporate as soon as you try to refer them to a biographical fact or aChechovian character. Much of it is recognizable, but what is decisive is the revelation of the deepestparts of Checkov’s humanity: tender, nostalgic, romantic and dreamy.’La Regione Ticino - Gianfranco Helbling14 January 2010‘Everything is in the light of the “sun” even if it is covered with a veil of poetic “fog” which recalls,rather than the great dreams, the little refined fantasies of a J.J.Rousseau. In this way Finzi brings thespectator to a kind of contemplation, rounding off the corners of the dramas which he alwaysconfronts with sweetness. The lightness also prevails, the deepest and truest as desired and theorizedby Italo Calvino. Of Maria Bonzanigo’s music one must note its absolute effectiveness, not only theprerecorded symphonic aspects, but also in the live performance of polyphonic songs, and thefolksongs and dances in Russian style, which accompany the whole show, while Hugo Gargiulo’s setdesign is elegant and poetic, and Giovanna Buzzi’s costumes numerous and imaginative.’Giornale del Popolo - Francesco Hoch16 January 2010

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