South Reward:— Fiery theatre director, Albina Matuzko is doing it again – taking a well-know literary work, ripping it apart in her own inimitable way, and sewing it up together again with clowning antics, wild costumes and hopeless characters to present on stage. It’s a painful process that brings tears every day to the eyes of Ms. Matuzko as she juggles one aspect of the production over another, however it’s also a process that brings immense joy and artistic satisfaction in being able to become totally involved in something she has loved all her life – Theatre.
Combining her training in the art of clowning with classic literature was put to the test last year when Albina, as she is more popularly called, staged the hugely successful play, Behind the Beyond – a Canadian classic by one of the country’s best known writers of the day, Stephen Leacock. The original work is a comedy and farce, but it was the touch of clowning that really set Albina’s production apart from those that had been before.
The director has taken the transformation a step further by injecting her own brand of humour into her latest production of the Russian classic The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol. – a step, incidentally, that is just short of sacrilege when one considers the high esteem to which Gogol’s famous work features in hearts and minds of all Russians and Russian literary folklore.
Her interpretation of the Russian classic is daring and in some places quite risqué – so teenagers and adults only please, but it’s also very honest and revealing at many different levels, with nuanced messages that theatregoers will have to be quick to pick up.
“People have been asking me, ‘why a Russian play’ and I have been answering, Why not?” said the feisty, 5ft 2” fireball.
“I have always believed and continue to believe that theatre should have no borders. Whether works are from the past and are of the likes of Shakespeare, Brecht, Molier, Checkhov or Gogol, so long as they still have relevance to what is happening today and to the human spirit as it stands today, then it doesn’t matter from what part of the world it comes or its origins,” said Albina.
“I’m sure Gogol couldn’t foresee that his characters would still be will be walking around, 200 years after he had written his masterpiece – and outside of Russia too, which is why I am so interested in directing the play in the Caribbean where there is a totally different cultural and social exposure. It would be just as interesting to direct the play in China, for instance, but that wouldn’t allow me to play with the richness and mix of cultures that I have come to discover on this island and literally turn it on its head, as far as what can be imagined and achieved,” said the director.
She is profoundly proud of merge at disparate mix of nine different cultures, represented by 18 cast members into one performing entity where everyone, though speaking with different accents are totally in synch with the bygone language with its odd phrasing and idiosyncratic vernacular. Indeed, one would wonder how in God’s earth would an obviously French character would share the stage with an plumb English character in the heart of a Russian village peppered with Dutch, Caribbean and other tones – but that is in fact the charm of Albina’s production of the Government Inspector. Once the characters are established in the minds of the audience, theatre magic kicks in. You no longer hear the pour-pouri of languages in front of you because you are transcended into another era and time that remains in your own minds eye as the Russian backdrop that the play sets out to create.
“ In our production we are not even pretending to speak seriously, we are joking about serious matters while playing with classical themes and ideas, attempting to find beauty in each ‘idiot’ character (something we always do), looking at them and scrutinizing them through magnifying glasses in the way that only theatre can do,” explained Albina.
“I will admit that as the Director I implant my own hidden messages in the play with the help of my cast – it’s subtle sometimes and right in your face other times, but it’s not in any way done to mock, offend or insult but merely to entertain and surprise our audience, who I’m warning right now have to be sharp or they will missing some very poignient moments.
Actors in rapt attention during rehearsal of Albina Matuzko’s latest production, The Government Inspector, which opens at the Cultural Center, Backstreet, June 15, 16, 17.
“ I have no statements to make other than I love the foolish characters of the play and my super-talented actors team of actors who have all embraced the persons on stage that they are portraying. Their stage persona is so different to who they are in the community and in their work lives that it’s another one of the transformations that adds to that love. You think you transform only outside, but the greatest work is happening inside, invisible but beneficial. I am happy to work with people who are dare to be ridiculous on stage knowing that not everyone can and I continue to blessed in being able to have such a group to work with,” said Albina.
Opening night of The Government Inspector at the Cultural Center, Backstreet, is only weeks away with a mad-cap schedule of final rehearsals about to unfold and while the focus is on the players themselves, the Director also spares time to give credit and thanks to many who have assisted in various ways up to this point, including those involved in various aspects of the production behind the scenes.
“We once again have some amazingly realistic and atmospheric stage sets and props thanks to talented Art teacher, Cor Sikkes. He has ensured that every detail has been carried out with much love and passion, that will surely be admired by the audience. We want to thank all the voluneers who will be coming out this weekend to help us move our stage sets, costumes and other theatrical stuff to the venue of the play where we will now take up residence until the show and at the same time thank the Cultural Center staff for working around out rehearsal schedules.
“We really appreciate the assistance of the Sint Dominic High School, who allowed us to rehearse in one of the classrooms, giving the cast a home after Hurricane Irma left the troupe homeless and unable to continue with our plans.
“We Are happy the the assistance of SXM Doet from which we could begin work on decor and props with a group of Volunteers who are continuing to assist however they can up to the present day, and also for the assistance of the VNP Dutch Representatives in Philipsburg and the Prins Berhard Cultuurfonds Caribbisch Gebied.
Thanks also to Netherlandse ReisOpera for their donation of costumes ( from their own classic productions such as La Traviata and Figaro), that the local troupe have been able to customize to their needs, making them quite unrecognizable from their original forms. The director hopes the spirit of these productions have remained in the costumes, even though they have been adapted, and she has symbolically left the names of the actors who wore the costumes in place inside each of the donated costumes – just for good measure.
“The next two weeks will be very intense with some tears but with lots of laughs and fun as we once again set out to give St. Maarten a taste of theatre that it surely deserves,” said director, Albina Matuzko.
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