Russian theatre is at the centre of my research and expertise in a number of ways: I write on Russian theatre, with a focal interest on Chekhov and Gorky. I also have a particular interest in Russian theatre in English translation, and the repertoire we see on the British stage.
Another area of expertise has developed in relation to the unique Soviet war poster collection held at the University of Nottingham. Following my work as the curator of an exhibition of the posters, I have just worked on the development of a new on-line exhibition from the collection.
I am also an experienced theatre director. I have worked with students on plays in Russian and in a local community theatre where I have directed many productions over more than twenty years. I choose where possible to direct plays in translation from other cultures, including Russian.
Soviet War Posters
I have just completed the first phase and launch of a new website to showcase the large, rare collection of TASS windows and war prints in the Manuscripts and Special Collections archive at the University of Nottingham. A multi-skilled, interdisciplinary team was formed. It included members from Manuscripts and Special Collections, the Web Technologies team and two postgraduate interns as well as myself from Russian and Slavonic Studies. This team has devised a new on-line model to present the posters thematically with annotation and access to the research that has informed understanding of the posters as propaganda, as memorial items from WWII and as works of art. The website is a development from the exhibition Windows on War. Soviet posters 1943-45 which I curated at the University's Weston Gallery. It extends the original exhibition and presents the research materials in an accessible form. The model for the website is designed to have potential for other exhibitions from MSS and Special Collections.
This project is a development of my continuing research interest in image and text, and in theatre. I have published a book and articles on the topic of image and text though painting and poetry, through landscape in prose, and more recently by exploring the visual links between painting and theatre production as a visual form. Due to these connections I have been drawn into the theatricality of the posters, seen in their performative use of figures in a defined space, their power to draw spectators and their use of text to accompany striking representation of war themes.
Russian theatre in translation. I am currently in the last stages of a book on translated Russian theatre on the British stage since WWII. A database of productions 1945-2005 ( more than 400) has been constructed and forms the information basis on which the study is founded. It draws on drama theory and on research on the repertoire of Gorky's plays undertaken for previous publications on Gorky's theatre (1993; and 2006). On the basis of this research, in April 2013, I gave a platform talk at the National Theatre, London in connection with their new production of Gorky's Children of the Sun. I have also will been involved in a post-show discussion of Chekhov's The Seagull, in a new version by John Donnelly, at the Richmond Theatre.
Russian theatre in the original. Chekhov and Gorky remain at the centre of my drama research. Recently, I was part of a three-person panel on the Radio 4 programme In Our Time invited to discuss the works of Chekhov.
Live theatre in translation. As a platform to research I direct foreign theatre in English translation. In 2010, I directed Chekhov's Three Sisters in Nottingham, and recently Euripides' Women of Troy in a modern version by Don Taylor, which one reviewer described as an 'extraordinary evening's theatre'.
I began my research career examining the links between painting and poetry in the work of the poet and painter Maximilian Voloshin. I followed doctoral research up by changing genre to prose and analysing the function of landscape in the novels of Turgenev and Lermontov. This interest in the visual made the transition to theatre and drama a natural progression. Apart from publications on the work of Gorky ( 1986, 1993, 2006), I have examined Chekhov's plays from the point of view of staging (1991), the use of props ( 2006; 2012) and Gorky's utilisation of space (2003) and story-telling( 2000) and the impact of staging and design on interpretation (2000). Latterly, and in continuing work I have been concerned with an examination of Chekhov's dramatic form (2005).
I then turned to theatre in translation. Due to my own directing projects I was confronted by the processes as a text migrates from Russian culture to English. I have published several articles on translated theatre in the British theatre (Turgenev (2008), Chekhov ( 2102; 2013) Tolstoy (in press), Dostoevsky ( in press) and given many conference papers and public talks.
Communicating through drama. More recently I was involved in an AHRC funded network emanating from CRCEES (Glasgow) of which Nottingham is an institutional member. Known as TREEC(Translating Russian Central and East European Cultures) the network set itself the aim to improve communication between the social sciences and the humanities by examining the transference of cultures among the countries in the target region of Russia, Central and Eastern Europe. I ran two workshops entitled Bodies in Translation, one in Prague (2011) and one in Nottingham (2012) on the body as a vehicle of cultural communication.
Chekhov Exhibition.My next project relates to Chekhov. I am investigating the visual marketing of Chekhov and his plays to UK audiences, as an outcome of my book on repertoire and interest in the power of the visual. An exhibition is planned for January 2014 to investigate this topic. The exhibition will draw on materials (programmes, flyers and posters) in the Patrick Miles Chekhov Archive in MSS and Special Collections at Nottingham. Targets of investigation include the creation of stereotypes in marketing foreign dramatists; the changing format of the theatre programme; and the reasons why Chekhov remains so popular, and lays claim to the title as one of the world's most translated dramatists alongside Shakespeare.
I am also planning a further article on the influence from visual culture on Chekhov's dramatic form. This analysis will focus on The Cherry Orchard.
Soviet War Posters, phase 2. Phase 1 of the new on-line exhibition has been built on the conservation and digitisation of approximately one third of the collection. The aims are to continue that process, annotate the new additions and add to the existing research. It is hoped the website will become a hub for international research into the Soviet war poster and particularly the hand-painted TASS windows.