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All-male cast takes the stage for Gogol 19th century classic

January 20, 2014, 15:02 UTC+3 MOSCOW
A production based on Nikolai Gogol's "Dead Souls" novel is to open at Moscow's Gogol Center on January 25
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Head of Moscow's Gogol Center Kirill Serebrennikov

Head of Moscow's Gogol Center Kirill Serebrennikov

© ITAR-TASS/Zurab Dzhavakhadze

MOSCOW, January 20. /ITAR-TASS/. A production based on Nikolai Gogol's 19th century "Deal Souls" novel in verse is to open at Moscow's Gogol Center theatre, played exclusively by male actors in the roles of children, dogs and women's parts.

“These are not men but actors, actors like super-creatures, far beyond the issue of sex,” head of the center Kirill Serebrennikov told Itar-Tass. “Ten men on a practically empty stage play everybody: children, dogs, old women, ladies, men. No gender differences are in question."

Preparations took several months, Serebrennikov added. "It was not an easy task to find actors” who should have certain voices, play musical instruments, know different acting techniques and be physically trained, he said.

"Dead Souls" opens on January 25. The main character, Mr Chichikov, will be played by American actor Odin Biron, who read the classic and polished his Russian skills specifically for the performance. He takes to the boards alongside Semyon Steinberg as Manilov, both actors rotating the roles.

Speaking of the book and reader-reaction when it was first published, Serebrennikov said, “Gogol gave such a sniper-precise, true-to-life and heavily sarcastic depiction of Russian reality that it caused fear and aggression.” This was akin to “Caliban's enraged reaction to seeing his own face in the mirror”, which Oscar Wilde used to describe the 19th century’s dislike of realism.

Actor Biron, offered the role of Chichikov about a year ago, agrees. “All characters of this novel are real people with their contradictions. There are no goodies here but there is much human nature,” he said.

Biron said the offer encouraged him to read the novel, which he had not tackled before, either in English or in Russian.

The endeavor had Biron read the book twice, first trying to omit old words and turns of speech, says the actor, who started learning Russian eight years ago while studying at the Moscow Art Theatre but had “to slightly improve it” for this new adventure.

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