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Mystery-Bouffe


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A: Vladimir Mayakovsky Pf: 1918, Petrograd Pb: 1921 Tr: 1933 G: Drama in 6 acts, prologue, and epilogue; Russian prose, verse, and songs S: The Ark, hell, paradise, Land of Fragments, Promised Land, 20th c. C: 55m, 4f, extrasThe Unclean, seven pairs of grimy workers, enter from the audience and tear down the front curtain, proclaiming: ‘The land, swollen with blood, has given birth to us!’ At the North Pole an international group of survivors speak of the new flood of the Bolshevik Revolution which has engulfed the world. However, Western politicians, the Clean, have commandeered an ark built by the Unclean. On the ark the Unclean are brutally oppressed, first by a tsar and then by a ‘democratic’ government of the Cleans – which is merely a ‘tsar with a hundred mouths’. The Unclean throw them overboard and follow the Man of the Future towards an earthly paradise, which they will build for themselves. In hell the Unclean tell Beelzebub and his fellow devils that earthly torments are far worse than anything hell can offer. In paradise the Unclean condemn those who are venerated but who had unproductive lives, e.g. Rousseau and Tolstoy. God is so outraged that he threatens to destroy the Unclean, but they appropriate his thunderbolts to produce electricity. Entering the gate to the Promised Land, the Unclean are fed by Storegoods, brought to them by Hammer and Sickle. The machines apologize for the harm they did the Unclean, explaining that they were exploited by the fat men but that they will now serve the workers. In a final triumphant chorus, workers, machines, and tools sing of the joyful revolution.

A: Vladimir Mayakovsky Pf: 1918, Petrograd Pb: 1921 Tr: 1933 G: Drama in 6 acts, prologue, and epilogue; Russian prose, verse, and songs S: The Ark, hell, paradise, Land of Fragments, Promised Land, 20th c. C: 55m, 4f, extras

Combining in its title the allegorical medieval mystery play and the fun and theatricality of comic opera, Mystery-Bouffe was the first significant dramatic product of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Staged by Meyerhold in 1918 and in a revised form in 1921, it celebrated with spectacular pageant and charming if misplaced optimism the achievements and hopes of the young Soviet Union.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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