“Where the table was food, there is a coffin”: as in “Dangerous Connections” the dead displaces the living

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For three and a half hours in the tiny space of the old stage, pressed tightly to a long table, the audience watches as the actors of Petro Fomenko’s Workshop eat. All the scenery of the premiere performance of the novel by Chauderlo de Laclo “Dangerous Ties” – an 18-meter table with 8 heads of cheese, 6 hams, a variety of breads, two pies, 5 crabs and lobsters, oysters, mussels, sea urchins, grapes, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, melons, lemons. For each performance, props purchase about 30 items of provisions on the list.

The great inventor, director Peregudov once forced the heroines of the melodrama “Women’s Time” to clean the bow in the foreground; he poured milk from heaven and fed the audience bananas in his version of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude; covered the stage of the Moscow Art Theater with hay and filled it with water in the production of Turgenev’s “Moon in the Village”. “Dangerous connections” in the Workshop of Peregudov turned into one epoch-making still life.

Photo by Sergei Petrov·Peter Fomenko’s workshop

The director defined the genre of the performance as “tasting with an intermission”. And given the sad finale of the story (widely known for the 1988 Hollywood film adaptation with John Malkovich and Uma Thurman, as well as for Milos Foreman’s “Valmon” in 1989 with Colin Firth, ballet lovers – for “Park” by Angela Preljokazha) it was possible immediately, without ceremony, to declare in Pushkin: “Where the table was food, there is a coffin.”

It was this still life performance with its impeccable picturesqueness that turned out to be the most successful of Yegor Peregudov’s ideas. Dummies Tatiana Skorokhodova, Alexander and Tatiana Khovansky did not answer the question of how they managed to create oysters with a delicate body with a trembling effect, characteristic only of the freshest of sea reptiles. At the same time, in “Dangerous Relationships” still life is not just a bright delusion, a beautiful picture – here it turns into a ruthless illustration of modernity, a documented accurate fixation of the current moment: people prefer to eat, if only not to feel.

Thus, our contemporaries persistently travel to Ples and Mandrogi, go to the border town of Rostov to taste a new menu at a local restaurant. They run to the opening of gastronomic restaurants with theatrical scenery in the center of Moscow. Stuffed in food courts in the markets. The Italian outcome of HPP-2 is mourned at the closing of the Stolen Artichoke restaurant. “They get stuck in constant stress,” sofa psychologists explain in one voice.

Photo by Sergei Petrov·Peter Fomenko’s workshop

But the meaning of “Dangerous Relationships” is, in fact, much deeper – and the novel of the XVIII century is as mysterious as the Dutch still life. One hundred years ago, the art critic Pavel Muratov tried to unravel the work of Chauderlo de Laclo. He asked a reasonable question: how could a book about people, completely devoid of indulgence and compassion, driven only by selfishness and calculation, have appeared in the epoch of enlightenment and the flowering of philosophy?

“Balzac’s complex constructions seem fragile next to the mathematically correct construction of this novel in letters,” Muratov thought. Laclo has no sympathy, and it is unknown whether his stone heart felt anything. “

The characters in Peregudov’s version initially resemble objects from a masterfully written composition. All the mastery of intonation, all the lace of psychologism, all the acting humanism that can justify any scoundrel, ruthlessly, like a crab shell, are removed by the hand of the “chef”. There are no other shades than external effects. The saffron-colored satin dress in the tone of soft red curls and porcelain skin of the Marquise de Mertey (Polina Kutepova) looks much richer and more spectacular in this composition than its brightly monotonous intonations. All three generations of actors of the workshop operate in the same meager palette: Thomas Mockus (Valmon), Seraphim Ogarev (President de Tourvel), and young Daria Konyzheva (Cecil de Volange) and Rifat Alyautdinov (Chevalier Danseni).

The “boss” of Peregudov is not looking for excuses for the heroes, but for authenticity. And finds what is called, without leaving the table.

The gnawing, chewing gluttons gossip and commit adultery in the still life space: the naked innocent Cecil is as defenseless as an oyster under a knife in a scene of seduction, and President Turvel spreads out in Valmon’s arms, putting a leg of pork leg under her head instead of a pillow. With stuffed mouths, chewing celery stalks or tearing melon fruits with their hands, the heroes seem to devour their world, eat time, life – and in the end each other.

Diligently copied from the canvases of old masters (even the glasses-remoure theater ordered specifically in a glass workshop), the table is devoid of the most important detail characteristic of the Dutch still life – it has no game. If Frans Snyders wrote down every tuft of hair of a killed hare, every feather of a white goose neck, Peregudov appoints his heroes as ducks, pheasants, hares and moose. Here and Danseni, the living corpse, and Valmont, killed in a duel, and President de Tourvel, who could not stand a breakup with her lover, Cecil de Volange and her miscarriage – and the Marquise de Mertey, who fell victim to a deadly smallpox. As the heroes drop out, game carcasses appear on the table. The dead displace the living. The food is over.

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