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Gogol

31st March 2007

Dear All
Received from a member.

Best wishes
Ute

FAO all at the Russian Speaking Society

I am writing to let you know about a major theatre event celebrating the
life and work of Nikolai Gogol which opens in London on April 3rd and runs
for 4 weeks until April 28th (20 performances) at the Blue Elephant
Theatre in Camberwell.

I am attaching a flyer giving further details and a map showing the
location of the theatre.

Please find information pasted below also.

AS A PROMOTIONAL OFFER WE WOULD LIKE TO OFFER A LIMITED NUMBER OF
COMPLIMENTARY TICKETS TO MEMBERS OF THE RUSSIAN SPEAKING SOCIETY!

To take advantage of this offer, please contact me on the email address or
phone number below. We will allocate free tickets on a first come, first
served basis.

Please feel free to forward this email or to publicise its contents in any
way you feel fit.

Many thanks for your attention to this.

Best wishes

Steve Hennessy

Free Theatre Tickets For People Receiving This Email!

Stepping Out Theatre in Association with In Extremis and Group Z Present

The Inhabitants of the Moon are Noses / Diary of a Madman by Steve
Hennessy / Nikolai Gogol

Directed by Andy Burden, Design by Peter Liddiard, Lighting by Andy
Burden, Sound by Richard Jeffrey – Gray. Costume by Penn O' Gara. Cast:
Martin Aukland, Julia Gwynne, Sebastian Steiger

"'Seen your nose lately? Of course not! It's on the moon!"

The thin line between imagination and madness.

Nikolai Gogol's dark, hilarious masterpiece together with Steve Hennessy's
acclaimed new play about Gogol's life.

"A lyrical, melancholy, zany farce . with a strange, animistic quality .
all moonlight, graveyards, devils and fairytale charm . The acting is
first-rate . an hilarious, tight studio piece" (Steve Wright, Venue
Magazine)

What Audiences Said in Bristol

"Lovely, creative, imaginative . Delightful, imaginative, funny and
anarchic. Grinned through it all . Fantastic production, very magical,
captivating and extremely clever writing . Absolutely loved it. Wonderful,
comical, surreal, crazed . Witty, engaging and beautifully acted .
Fabulous and engrossing with a wonderful cast and sparkling writing .
Hugely entertaining . Magical in a painful, brutal kind of way. Engaging.
Funny, sad or sadly funny. Beautifully and energetically performed.
Inspiring ."

PRESS ACCLAIM FOR PREVIOUS PRODUCTIONS BY STEVE HENNESSY

'Powerfully performed . an absorbing and atmospheric production . a
piquant mix of witty Gothic ghoulishness and serious moral questioning .'
PAUL TAYLOR, THE INDEPENDENT

'Excellent, thought – provoking stuff . Powerful . warm . funny . a
masterpiece of comic relief.' – METRO

The cast are all in the mood to let rip, and it works . Joyous, but there
are darker moments too . a sheer sense of fun and anything – goes energy'
VENUE MAGAZINE

'A most wonderful story . writing is great too, wonderful three
dimensional characters . plenty of humour.' BRISTOL EVENING POST

'Vitality, pathos and humour all combine admirably in a dense and
powerfully convincing script.' EPIGRAM

PERFORMANCES

The Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell, London,

Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 28th April (No performances Sunday / Monday)

The Rondo Theatre, Bath,

Thursday 3rd – Friday 4th May

All performances 8.00 p.m.

Performance length approximately 120 minutes with interval

TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC, TICKETS COST UP TO £10, BUT WE ARE GIVING AWAY A
LIMITED NUMBER OF FREE TICKETS TO PEOPLE RECEIVING THIS EMAIL. TO BOOK
YOUR FREE TICKETS, OR FOR MORE INFORMATION, PHONE STEVE HENNESSY ON 07790
980688 OR e mail; [removed]

Read more at www.steppingouttheatre.co.uk

From the Programme notes of the Production;

Gogol. His Life, His Madness, His 'Diary of a Madman'

Nikolai Gogol (1809 – 1852) was born on All Fool's Day, and struggled for
much of his brief life with mental health problems. Biographers of the
great Russian writer talk of lengthy depressions, wild mood swings,
delusional ideas, paranoia, messianic complexes and religious obsessions.
When we read about his mother Maria Gogol, an hysterical, superstitious
and hypersuspicious fantasist, it's hard to believe she did not play some
part in the origins of these problems. All their lives, they remained
locked in a fascinating symbiotic relationship like inseparable Siamese
twins.

Gogol poured his neuroses and incipient madness into his works, giving the
best of them a wild, manic energy and a surreal, fantastical strangeness.
In The Nose a petty official's nose disappears from his face and embarks
on a series of adventures before turning up inside a freshly baked loaf of
bread. Noses are a recurring motif in Gogol's works (his was large .), and
so is the moon with all it's lunatic associations. These works assured his
immortality and this certainly mattered to him. When he pressed a close
friend, Pyotr Pletnyov, to give an honest account of how he found Gogol,
Pletnyov replied; 'A secretive, egotistical, arrogant and mistrustful
being who sacrifices everything for the sake of fame.' Gogol admitted this
was just about right. An anti semite and a misogynist, he was not the most
attractive of characters, and he seemed to have some insight into this.
('In general, my attitude to people has been unpleasant and repellent' he
once said.)

But this was not important to Gogol. What really mattered to him was the
effect his work would have. In the great Russian tradition, he was
obsessed with literature as a species of moral activity. He saw the writer
as possessing a divine talent that was meant to reveal moral truths to
humankind. The irony of course is that as this idea took increasing hold
on him, his works became more and more unreadable. It is when he is
writing about the petty and the mundane, and making it extraordinary, that
his genius is most apparent. Pushkin had said of him; 'No other writer has
the gift of representing the banality of life so clearly, knowing how to
depict the banality of a banal man with such force that all the petty
details gleam large.' Such a banal man is Poprishchin in 'Diary of a
Madman' or Akaky Akakievich in 'The Overcoat'.

Fiction came readily to a man who fictionalized the very life he was
living. He engaged in complex and often wholly unnecessary deceptions with
his family, his friends and himself about his motives, thoughts and
actions. The critic Helen Muchnic put it most succinctly; 'Gogol lied to
himself as well as others. Lying was his way of life, the essence of his
genius.' Simon Karlinsky's book 'The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol'
(1976) makes a compelling, brilliant (and incidentally very funny) case
that many of Gogol's difficulties in life can be explained by his
repressed homosexuality. Apparently, there are some scholars who still
seriously contest this fact, despite the evidence from his life and works.
I'm not sure why. It explains so much about him that would otherwise
remain baffling. Deception and dissimulation are a survival strategy for
many homosexual men and women even today – this was far more the case in
Gogol's world. And Gogol turned the strategy into an art form.

Diary of a Madman was praised in a recent article in the British Medical
Journal for containing 'one of the earliest, and most complete,
descriptions of schizophrenia'. It should be added that another
psychiatrist promptly wrote in to say he disagreed with this diagnosis and
that 'schizo – affective disorder' would more accurately describe
Poprishchin. I think Gogol would have relished the idea of a dispute
between doctors over the correct diagnosis of his fictional character.
Although a hopeless hypochondriac himself, a snatch of dialogue from his
short story 'St. John's Eve.' perhaps hints at his own opinion of
doctors;

"What do you think sir, about doctors?" "I think they simply hoax us and
make fools of us."

Accounts of Gogol's death are almost unbearable to read. The different
doctors involved (accounts vary about their number) were enthusiastic
participants in what sounds more like a ritualised murder than a programme
of treatment. It is hard not to impute, at the very least, unconscious
sadistic impulses to the doctors who offered their dubious services to the
dying writer. And it is worth reminding ourselves that Gogol was receiving
some of the best medical care available at the time in Europe. Those
without his wealth and reputation, if they received any help at all, were
probably treated far worse. It is interesting to speculate how he might
have been treated had he been alive today. At different times in his life,
he would almost certainly have been offered antipsychotics, tranquilisers
and antidepressants, and possibly ECT. He might easily have been
hospitalized.

The fate of Poprishchin was Gogol's own fate in more ways than the obvious
one of dying at the hands of an ignorant and deluded group of doctors.
There is something at once grotesquely comic and achingly tragic about the
way the writer and his creation met their end. This juxtaposition was at
the heart of 'Diary of a Madman' which leads us through heightened comedy
to the darkest of tragic places. And it brings to mind the conclusion of
his other masterpiece 'Dead Souls' ;

'And for a long time yet, led by some wondrous power, I am fated to
journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging
immensity of life, through the laughter that all can see and through
unknown invisible tears.'

'Diary of a Madman' seems to me the most intensely personal of Gogol's
writings. It seemed a good thing to bring this together with a play about
his life, and that's how this double bill was born. The uncanny
similarities between the end of Poprishchin's story and Gogol's own death
have always fascinated biographers and were one of the starting points for
my own play 'The Inhabitants of the Moon are Noses'. Another was the
relationship between the writer and a mother who seemed madder than any of
the characters he had created. In writing it as part of Theatre West's
'Inside Out' season, I said I wanted to turn Gogol's famous overcoat
inside out and show how a creative genius is stitched together. I also
wanted to try and capture some of the headlong, frenetic energy of Gogol's
own writing and if you go away wanting to read Gogol again, or curious to
read him for the first time, I will have succeeded in part of my purpose.

Steve Hennessy

Writer / Producer

(Steve Hennessy studied Russian at Keele University (1978 – 1982) under
Robert Service and Joe Andrew, and also at St. Petersburg University. His
other works include 'Deathsong' (2004) a play about the life of Modest
Musorgsky)

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