“A Warsaw Melody” presented by Beijing’s Central Academy of Drama is a moving story of individual dreams blighted by political ideologies.
There is no overt dramatic conflict to shock and provoke the audience. There is no grand narrative and imposing dramatic structure to follow the Aristotlean concept of the three unities — time, place and action. It is an experience in the theatre that touches the heart deeply. It is the symphony of true love which is tender, lyrical, poetic and sublime tinged with sad musings. The event was the staging of “A Warsaw Melody” by the Central Academy of Drama, Beijing, China, at Kamani auditorium this past week as part of the 15th Bharat Rang Mahotsav. What is most impressive to the discerning audience is the deep undercurrent of ideological conflicts that rob the people of their opportunity to realise their dreams of happiness.
Another highlight of this production is the theatrical power of the realistic style of acting and presentation to reveal the inner world of characters, their emotional and spiritual crisis and to depict human life in a subtle and intricate manner.
The play is written by Leonid Zorin, a Soviet playwright, considered to be one of the greatest 20th Century dramatists. “A Warsaw Melody” is his most popular work. It is translated into Chinese by Guo Jiashen. The play opens in a concert hall in Moscow. The year is 1946. Humanity is rebuilding society, cultural institutions from the ravages of the Second World War. Helya and Victor meet by chance. Helya is a Polish singer, practical and extrovert. Victor, Russian, is a student of the science of wine. He is shy, innocent and sentimental. Through their conversations they reveal that both are orphans. Gradually their love blossoms and they feel a passionate urge to marry. Helya confesses that she needs him to make her life meaningful. But marriage with foreigners is banned in Stalin’s Soviet Union. So they part with heavy hearts and lose contact with each other.
Again, after a decade they meet in Warsaw in a restaurant, talk about gifts they gave each other in their first meeting and reaffirm their love and longing to stay together. They admit that because of societal compulsions they have once again to depart.
Another decade has gone by. They meet in Russia where Helya has come to give a concert in Moscow. By now she is a famous singer. Victor is a scientist of wine, doing well. The action is set in the greenroom, Helya is getting ready for the concert. Nostalgic about the past, they have now become mature. They reveal in a cold manner their married lives. Helya has married a critic and now she is separated. Victor has no offspring. The urge to discover the meaning of life is still alive despite their sufferings.
The play is directed by Huo Ying with remarkable sensitivity, compassion and warmth. Stage design by Zhang Kunpeng is austere and highly suggestive. Elegantly designed fabric screens create the right ambiance. The stage hands handle the shifting of these screens to different spaces maintaining the rhythm of the production. The superb light design by Zhang Xiayin creates the illusion of falling of snowflakes. The portrait of Stalin in one of the scenes suggests the excesses of the Stalin era. The use of voiceover heightens the elegiac mood. The two circles drawn on the stage symbolise the march of history which never repeats itself.
Wang Kuang as Victor and Tian Yifan as Helya create memorable portraits of two human beings deeply in love whose dream remains unfulfilled because of hostile social and political conditions. Tian is a post-graduate student of acting but she displays equal felicity as a dancer and singer. She sings the concluding song of the production with heartfelt intensity full of restrained pathos. The moving image these two young actors project with poetic intensity is truly an elegy to love.