Russian Play Showcases The Harshness and Hope Of Life in a Labor Camp

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Russian Play Showcases The Harshness and Hope Of Life in a Labor Camp

One of the most popular contemporary European plays will come to Seoul in July. "Gaudeamus," produced by the Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg, will be staged at LG Arts Center between July 6 and 10.

"Gaudeamus," based on the Russian novel "Construction Battalion" by Sergei Kaledin, premiered in Russia in 1990 under the direction of Lev Dodin. The play, which is set on a construction site run by the Red Army of the former Soviet Union, depicts in its 19 scenes the life of a group of powerless and oppressed people. Workers at the site are society's losers, among them criminals and drug addicts, who are forced to labor. They suffer from social alienation and hardship at the hands of a violent, corrupt government. They try to escape their situation by fantasizing about and pursuing sexual pleasure.

In the end, the indomitable hope and optimism of humanity triumphs. Dodin once explained that he intended to show that though human beings are cruel and capable of doing bad things, they remain precious beings created by God.

The title of the play is partly derived from the name of a song that has been handed down in Russia since the Middle Ages, "Gaudeamus Igitur" in Latin, or "Let Us Rejoice." Though it may seem rather romantic and airy, in contrast to the despondency of much of the play, it is a deliberate indication of Dodin's intention to deal with his characters' - and humanity's - tribulations in an enlightening and optimistic way. Through a variety of songs, dances, acrobatics, the play charts a course of human passions and delights.

The play was developed over a few years by Dodin and his students at the Maly Drama Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. Together, they experimented on various acting theories including one proposed by the Russian director Constantin Stanislavsky. He believed that an actor must strive for absolute psychological identification with the character.

According to Kim Yun-cheol, theater critic and professor at the School of Drama of the Korean National University of Arts, one of the characteristics of contemporary plays is that they seldom deeply move but simply give the audience a momentary shock or invite passing admiration.

The play is in Russian, but the action is conveyed mostly in mime and other forms of visual communication. Necessary subtitles will be provided in Korean only. The play starts at 8 p.m. on weekdays, 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays, 6 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are priced between 15,000 won ($11.50) and 50,000 won.

For more information, call the LG Arts Center at 02-2005-0114 (English service available).

by Jung Jae-wal

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