Cover Image: Staging Postcommunism

Staging Postcommunism

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Member Reviews

I enjoy theatre and I enjoy reading about history in general, and the history of theatre but I am far from being an expert. Many of these essays were beyond me but having read them, I want to reread them as I think I will understand better. This is a collection of views written about the change in theatre in Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Amongst corruption and capitalism, they had to adapt. There is a lot of meat here and it covers ten different countries as the book captures what it was like to be suddenly “post communist” and grappling with “alternative” theatre.

The book is dense and takes some effort but it is fascinating to glimpse what it felt like at a huge moment for theatrical history and creative development. Recommended if you want something with a bit of depth to get your teeth into during lockdown and have an interest in theatre history or the history of Eastern Europe, I will be revisiting this as my awareness and knowledge develops.

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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This is more of a work for the diaspora than for those in Post Soviet eastern Europe. That said it has a lot of detail, which the reader who is interested in this subject will be grateful for. For this alone its worth getting a copy. As a reference it will be indispensable as finding other sources for so many countries is impossible. 

That said there are some natural draw backs. Draw backs that might actually be seen as benefits. This is an anti-communist, anti-Soviet, Pro-Western, Pro-Liberal set of essays by western or western oriented Intelligenzia. Yes this is the coloured revolution cheer leaders writ large. I'm not saying this to disparage them, not in the least. Rather its an interesting view of the struggle for relevance, in the face of a damning void which most of those who are part of this Intelligenzia have faced.

The Intelligenzia in these societies, and particularly the theatre, were the harbingers of the fall of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern and Central Europe. In their wake came massive poverty, brutal and bloody crime, civil wars and finally the rise of a hardened Nationalist crusade that has so many echoes of fascism its almost indistinguishable from it. So those that raised the banner of the descent into hell, felt themselves sorely lacking in connection to the people, and their relevance was at an all time zero. The Intelligenzia were lost to the world and the world of theatre, lacking money and reason to exist declined.

But as you can read in these essays, the world of Eastern European / Post-Communist theatre has but died a little and has come back resurgent. This book shows in tortuous detail how the theatre directors, actors and playwrights have molded themselves from the post-communist, anti-communist, post-modern malaise to once again relate to the experiences of society. Why? Because there is a rich tradition that questions and develops with all the historical baggage, its not dragged down by it, but rather throws it all on the stage. The confusion of the people, the lack of progress, the lack of spiritual fulfillment and the disconnection to history, are all great themes we see in the theatres of these respective countries. 

Has the population forgiven the fools who led them into a disaster? Perhaps not, but they certainly love the fooling on the stage. I recommend this book because it gives some scope to a theatrical world come back into its stride. This is a theatrical tradition which has been the source of so much energy and ideas to world theatre over many centuries. Because of that, this is an important book.
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