Maly Theatre



  • (1) The oldest surviving theater in Moscow. The Maly (meaning 'little')opened in 1824 as the home for a company founded in 1806. The city'sonly state theater for drama, it quickly found acclaim for its productionsof the classics, notably Shakespeare, and of works by contemporaryRussian dramatists, such as Gogol's The Government Inspector.Between 1854 and 1885 the Maly became particularly associated withthe works of Alexander Ostrovsky, which achieved enormouspopular success. Despite the personal hostility of Lenin, the theatersurvived the revolution and the transition to communism; in 1926 itpremiered the Civil War epic Lyubov Yarovaya by Konstantin Trenev(1884 - 1945). It continues to be one of Moscow's leading theaters fordrama.

    (2) A small theater in St Petersburg, whose company has found extraordinary international acclaim since the 1980s; Peter Brook described the Maly as "the finest theater ensemble in Europe", while the Financial Times saluted "the greatest acting in the world". The company was founded, by official decree, in the immediate aftermath of the siege of Leningrad (1941 - 44). Initially, it had no theater of its own in the city and performed mainly in the surrounding towns and villages. The company achieved little distinction before 1973, when Efim Padve became its artistic director and began to recruit a new generation of actors and directors. Among the latter was Lev Dodin (1944 - ), whose name has now become virtually synonymous with the Maly. Dodin directed the company's first landmark production, Fedor Abramov's The House, in 1980; despite official disapproval, this panoramic view of post-war Soviet society became a great popular success and established the theater's national reputation. In 1983 Dodin assumed artistic control of the company, which has now developed a unique ethos and methodology. This is based on the idea of a large permanent ensemble, whose members undergo continuous training and help to develop new productions through a process of in-depth research and rehearsal. Productions may take up to three years to prepare and tend to remain in the company's repertoire for decades. Maly trademarks include simple but visually stunning sets (often involving water), the integrated use of music and dance (all members are told to learn an instrument), and considerable length (a 1991 adaptation of The Devils lasted for some 10 hours). The company made its first visit to the West in 1988, when it presented Alexander Galin's Stars in the Morning Sky to enraptured audiences in London and Glasgow. It has since performed widely in Europe, America, and Australia, winning particular acclaim for Dodin's adaptations of Chekhov.