of the play by Thomas Bernhard


1 hour 40 minutes without intermission

Who is this man who arrived in a small hotel of the town of Ostend in at a snowy night on the New Year’s Eve? He is an actor. He will tell us about himself, about his destiny, mystification, latent secrets and a dream to play King Lear. We will be taken captives by his flight of imagination and extreme sincerity. We will only be guessing and never know for sure where is the line between fiction and reality.


Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989), an Austrian writer and dramatist, is not well known in Russia. In the countries outside Russia his name does not often appear on theatre posters either. Bernhard was born out of wedlock in the Netherlands where his mother hurried to go in order to conceal her sin. The author of “Minetti” is a complicated and controversial figure. In all his works the borders of reality disappear in the clouds of fiction; his mysticism and absurdity are tightly interwoven.

Bernhard calls his writings “the art of exaggeration”. For him, a theater is not just a stage, but a space in life where destinies are enacted. His characters come on stage in all possible theatre masks: as heroes, buffoons, magicians, people of the crowd, etc. His imagination can turn any bit of everyday life into a theatrical performance. Bernhard’s characters live in a conflict with the world. Very often, this conflict stems from a deep feeling of discordance between the author’s view of the world and the way all other people see it.

Most plays by Thomas Bernhard are based on the main character’s monologue interrupted by few lines spoken by other characters. It is important to understand the middle ground of the story where the character’s longing for harmony is hidden and will never come true. Just like his dream to play King Lear will never come true.


The main character of this play repeats many times, as an incantation, the name of the painter Ensor who created his mask of King Lear. He keeps the mask in his old suitcase as the most precious of his treasures. Ensor is a historical character and, as it often happens in Thomas Bernhard’s works, the historical name is connected by numerous invisible ties to the action of the play.

James Ensor (1860-1949) is a well-known European painter, a native and resident of the small town of Ostend (Belgium) where the old Minetti arrived. He spent all his life in Ostend and inherited from his parents a small shop of souvenirs and antiques. This shop was full of incredible things from all over the world. In spite of his stubborn provincialism, Ensor attained great honors and awards (a title of Baron, the National Order of the Legion of Honour) and became one of the most respected and well-known Belgians in the world.

Ensor is somehow similar to the main character of “Minetti”. Having achieved all-European fame in the late XIX century, he suddenly reduced the amount of his creative output without the fear to lose recognition, and hardly gave any large exhibitions for almost 25 years.

Masks and skeletons regularly appear on the pictures by Ensor. His favorite subject is a carnival where people and masks come together: funny and frightening, human and animal, a smile of a face next to a skull’s grin. He likes to show the proximity of life and death, humans and beasts, festival and suffering, everyday life and mysticism. Some critics find similarity between his paintings and medieval miniatures on the dance macabre, canvases by Bosch and other masters of the late Renaissance; other argue that it was Ensor who heralded the coming of expressionism to painting.


Minetti is another historical character introduced into the play, to the utter astonishment of his contemporaries. Bernhard Minetti (1905-1998) was one of the most famous theater actors of Germany, a long-living performer who took the stage even in his nineties despite the difficulty in movement.

In fact, Thomas Berhard did create his play for the historical person of Bernhard Minetti. In 1976, the 71-year-old Minetti despised all unlucky signs and sad predictions and played the death of an old actor bearing his own name. The premiere of “Minetti” took place in Stuttgart (Wuertemberg State Theater) and after the premiere the actor lived for 22 years.

All the more interesting are some “corrections” that the real life of Minetti brought into the fictitious plot, and the unmeant predictions expressed in the play.

The next role of the real Minetti was Prospero from Shakespeare’s “Tempest” (Schiller Theater, Berlin, 1977), the role which Minetti the character longed to play after Lear and for whom Ensor was supposed to create a mask but never did. Unexpectedly for everyone, in the play there was a prophecy about Lear: in fact the last big role played by the 80-year-old Minetti at the theater was King Lear in W. Shakespeare’s tragedy: (Schaubuehne Theater, Berlin, 1984).

This is how the flight of imagination left the play and the stage and came into the real life of the actor.

The premiere of the performance is scheduled for 3 October to coincide with the Opening of the New Stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre.

Running time: 1 hours 40 min .

The play is recommended for audience older than 16 years (16 +).

New Stage

  • 11 September, Wednesday, 19:30

  • Ticket price: from 600 to 2300 rub.

Premiere was on 3 October 2015


Staging Rimas Tuminas
Assistant Director Anatoly Dzivaev
Set design Adomas Jacovskis
Costumes Kotrina Daujotaite
Music Faustas Latenas
Choreographer Angelica Cholina
Musical director Tatiana Agaeva
Lighting designer Narek Tumanyan
Make - up artist Olga Kalyavina
Sound engineer Andrey Mirnyi
Assistant Director Natalya Menyshikova
В спектакле звучат фрагменты из произведений Уильяма Шекспира, Эдмона Ростана, Осипа Мандельштама.