World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Russia

What do a bare-chested Vladimir Putin stroking the backside of an Olympic gymnast, a Botox overdose, and a partial brain transplant all have to do with each other? They can all be seen in a sold-out, groundbreaking new staging of a play in Moscow. This is what happens when politics and theatre collide in Russia.

The play, titled “Berlusputin,” premiered ahead of the March 4 polls for presidency (Putin has now won back the presidency). The show draws inspiration from the incendiary internet gossip swirling around the election and breaks almost every remaining taboo about the Russian leader’s personal life. The text is an adaption of “L’anomalo Bicefalo,” a work by an Italian playwright.

A glimpse into this unique and enchanting evening of theatre:

  • This production imagines what might happen if half of former Italian prime minister and Putin buddy Silvio Berlusconi’s brain was transplanted into Putin’s head after an accident.
  • The show performs in the ground-breaking Teatr.doc house, an intense black box space in the middle of Moscow renowned for its hard-hitting political plays
  • The actor playing Putin wears foam muscles strapped to his chest; the actress playing opposite him devoutly dons a headscarf to portray his wife Lyudmila, who got a little too close to her spiritual advisor at a monastery.
  • Putin tries a little too hard not to look his age and the resulting Botox overdose turns Putin into Dobby the house elf from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. (Putin was  reportedly offended by widespread comments on his resemblance to Dobby when the the film depiction came out back in 2003.)

The Internet rumors of Putin’s Botox use, the mucky situtation with his estranged wife, and his hardcore crush on Olympic rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva all were fodder for the play – much to the demise of the state, and much to the delight of almost everyone else in the country. The director has promised that they will continue to do the play as long as Putin is in power.

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