Russian Lalabai
2019, Promenade theater
The promenade was presented in the framework of the second Metadrama Pacific International Festival of Contemporary Playwrights in 2019 in Vladivostok, Russia.
The "Russian Lalabai" playwright was written by Victoria Kostyukevich (Vicentiy Briz).
Production team:
Victoria Kostyukevich - playwright, director
Anton Shefatov - director
Andrey Chugunov - art director, stage design, production design
Yulia Pigenko - art director, stage design, production design
Elizaveta Ni - video designer, production design
Aleksand Kholokhorenko - stage design, production design
Victoria Kostyukevich's play tells the story of the transformation of Vladivostok and Russia from the anarchic and bandit-driven 1990s to the police state of the 00s. The protagonist, the boy Dima, lost his voice after his father gets imprisoned and died there because of his long tongue. Not to say that the life that followed required him to actively participate verbally: he drifts along, getting caught up in a series of absurd situations that test his fate. He meets local hoodlums and authority figures, finds the love of his life, loses it, and also feels the pressure from the "grannies". "Grannies" in the play are old women who reflect the nature of resentment, singing history and denying the future, and their slogan becomes "respect old age", such a prototype of the right-conservative majority.

The production consisted of 12 scenes, which could be divided into four major blocks: the 1990s, the Millennium celebration, the 00s, and the confrontation scene between the audience and the security forces. Our team adapted the play to the theatre's locations, worked out the route, prepared the scenography, selected the costumes and created the video content.
The Youth Theatre in Vladivostok was an ideal venue for all promenade locations - its back rooms and adjoining territory) could easily be stylised (or not stylised at all) to match the time and place of the play.
Instead of entrance tickets the spectators were given food coupons which the state was distributing to the population in the 90s amid total deficit.
The audience's experience began in the foyer, which housed a television in which a slice of 90s news was shown. The news block was interrupted by an emergency recording by our team, with the presenter explaining to the audience that they were the collective protagonist. The video was stylised using touchdesigner to look like old VHS recordings.

Within the promenade, the role of the collective protagonist was assigned to the audience, who were led from one scene to the next by a TV presenter, aka the narrator. This underscores the Russians' over-oriented and over-trusting attitude towards television's propaganda, and underlines where that faith can lead.
The audience would go up a flight of stairs to meet hooligans who would verbally order them to pay back non-existent debts and take them to the flat of Dicky, their leader. He chases them away because of the pettiness of the debt and invites the main character to visit.
The action then moves to the backstage area of the small theatre through the back door of the staircase. The next two scenes take place in that room, with the entourage of two post-Soviet flats: the first room is Dicky's kitchen, the kitchen of the local boss, and the second room is Nadya's room, with whom Dima is in love. The rooms are separated from each other by a high curtain in the style of Soviet curtains.

In Dicky's kitchen, during his monologue, it turns out that his brutal image and xenophobia have in fact concealed his queer nature. He tries to get the main character drunk and seduced, dancing on his heels in front of him. At the end of the scene there is a knock at the front door from the staircase and the bully from the staircase appears with his partners, who cannot appreciate the revealed truth about Dicky and take him into the entrance hall to get even with him there.
A "granny" enters the room and asks her granddaughter Nadya to help her with her homework. The granddaughter looks like a young punk. She is not keen on doing them and offers the protagonist a drink of vodka and smokes a cigarette. The protagonist falls in love. Nadia gives a monologue about how she doesn't want to turn into a "granny" and live the life of an ordinary housewife. She passes out from the drink.
Through another door a "granny" appears in the flat with heavy bags of pies and asks the audience to help carry them, so the audience leaves the backstage area for the small stage of the theatre. In the course of her monologue it becomes clear that the "granny" makes pies from gullible hooligans, who once killed her son, so she takes revenge on them, and then she sells the pies to the same hooligans.
During her monologue, other "grannies" appear on stage and organise a kind of rally-noise band. They encircle the audience and start shouting slogans "Respect old age" and "Together we are the power". Two of them start playing noise-punk on bass and a drum kit made out of basins. After a while, the sound of a meat grinder comes on, and the "grannies" start pushing the audience towards the hall's exit, which is a long fabric gut through which all the audience must pass.
At the tunnel's exit, they enter the second-floor foyer, where a champagne table is set up to celebrate the Millennium. In the story, the audience celebrates the New Year together with live transition of President Yeltsin during his historic resignation, who is dethroned at the end by a "granny" who promises to put things in order.
The mother of the collective Dima appears with her man, saying she is tired and that she is leaving Dima and her man for America to join a new man she found by correspondence. Leaving, she says she is leaving the flat in Dima's name and that she will kill him if he loses it.
The audience is then led from the second-floor foyer down to the street through the back entrance, where several parallel scenes are set up that describes how Dima buys Nadya a ring on credit, defaults on payments, and lose his flat, how hooligans familiar to the audience earlier play thimbles and molest the audience, how the police inspect Dicky's corpse not far from the hooligans.
The audience is then led through an archway into the theatre courtyard, where a new scene with Nadya unfolds. Nadya gets out of a black jeep, driven by a wealthy man. Nadya has pink hair, a short tank top, and a pierced navel, and her skin is all self-tanned. She tells the collective Dima that her new look, a protest against herself, she's leaving him and his ring and going off with this new respectable man.
The broads show up with a "religious procession" consisting of "grannies" leading the audience through the back entrance to the theatre's main stage. The curtain is drawn, on the theatre tulle projected the episode of the Swan Lake ballet, which was shown on every TV channel in Russia during the brief seizure of power in 1993.
The final monologue is played, at the end of which the curtain opens, and armed riot police in balaclavas in the khokhloma pattern, as a symbol of everything old and relict, are standing in front of the audience with empty theater hall on the background. The sound of the gunshot appears and the lights go off. The end refers to the takeover of Nord Ost in the 90s and also signifies that "old age" and "grannies" have come to power in full force and have begun to dictate their terms.