Toward the Theatre of Fantastic Realism
The theme of revolt and challenge to death, the common theme in Vakhtangov’s pre-revolutionary productions, dominates Vakhtangov’s Rosmersholm. This production, based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1886 play, opened at the First Studio of the MAT in 1918, one year after the historic Russian “cataclysm” known as the Bolshevik Revolution. In Vakhtangov’s plan for Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, Rebecca and Rosmer revolt against the dead, stagnant traditions of Rosmer’s “noble ancestors.” (According to Vakhtangov, this tradition permeates every curtain fold of the familial Rosmersholm estate.) Rebecca and Rosmer’s revolt brings on the vision of the white horses-the symbol of death in the play. In Rosmersholm, Vakhtangov strived to break through to “the
essential” con‚ict between life and death, as he did in all of his productions. His directorial plan documents the director’s intentions to strip his actors of their everyday life masks, including the Stanislavskian characterization. The method of acting Vakhtangov was seeking in Rosmersholm can be described as “confessional.” The circumstances he chose and designed for the characters onstage also called for confession: they caused Vakhtangov’s characters to appear “spiritually naked,” deprived of their regular defenses. The method of acting Vakhtangov sought in Rosmersholm by no
means precludes creative transformation. Vakhtangov insisted that his actors preserve their “God-given face, God-given voice” and “transform by the power of their inner impulse” (see p. 211).1 In March
1921, Vakhtangov proclaimed in the following diary entry his resolve to introduce this new type of transformation to the theatre:
The theatre of everyday life must die. “Character” actors are no longer needed. All who have capacity for playing character roles must feel the tragedy (even the comedians) in every character part; they must learn to express themselves through the grotesque. Grotesque-tragic and comedic.