Donnellan/Ormerod, Boris Godunov

Review in Issue 13-3 | Autumn 2001

The British Cheek by Jowl team of Declan Donnellan (director), Nick Ormerod (designer) and Judith Greenwood (lighting designer) recently defected to Russia, securing some of the best actors in Moscow to infiltrate the Russian psyche and present a wholly modern and passionate interpretation of Alexander Pushkin’s Boris Godunov.

Written in the 19th century and set in 17th century Tsarist Russia, the play questions identity and the right to power. Grigori, a young monk, sees his way to the Tsar’s crown by impersonating the dead, supposed murdered tsarevitch. With the might of the dead brought back to life and weighty public support he challenges Boris Godunov’s rule.

The stage is set like a runway with the audience sat on either side facing itself, at once the Russian people and a jury presiding over the events that take place before it. Short capsule-like scenes utilise the whole space, moving from Grigori’s extraordinary rallying of public support in a scene oozing youthful charm, optimism and blatant manipulation, to the small but beautiful fountain scene in which a confession of love also brings a confession of true identity.

In the hands of this highly successful collaboration a revered text bursts free of tradition with minimalist and precise use of modern dress, simple, strong imagery and the clarity of its performances. Alexander Feklistov’s Godunov is strangely antic, almost ‘contemporary dance’ in his physical manifestation of internal struggle and I found his portrayal difficult to understand. However, Eugeny Mironov is particularly compelling as Grigor; his portrayal of pure ambition is so likeable it lingers in the mind for days.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jun 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-3
p. 27