Scene designer Maria Soshina

Maria Soshina was born in 1978 in Tashkent. She finished Art College by name of P. P. Benkov, faculty of scenography. Being a student, Masha had training at A. Khidoyatov's theatre, making theatre properties and painting scenery. Her instructors were followers of talented scene designer G. Brim who pointed out that talent of an artist is ability to feel texture of any material, to foresee how it can look on stage and to transform simple things into artistic pieces. After college finishing, Maria entered National Institute of Painting and Design by K. Bihzad. She combined study and serious projects at the theatre. For six years she had made scenery of more than ten plays. The best works show innovative compositions, bright beauty and feeling of rhythm. Maria's scenery is portable, laconic, multifunctional, conditional and symbolical. She does not like cluttering the stage, its most part remains open. Costumes, original in rhythmic alternation of oriental patterns perfectly characterize a personage and emphasize dynamics of oriental dances and plastique of actors. Maria's talent brightly showed in plays by Avlakuli Khodjakuli due to whom she understood what contemporary theatre is and how "to speak" its language.

Debut and flare of creative imagination of M. Soshina was the play "Crocus sari" after play "Pearl necklace" by Indian playwright Harshi. The play was staged by Khodjakuli at studio of "Eski Masjit" (Karshi). The artist said that she would have remembered this work for a long time and she enjoyed the process much. It was full freedom of creativity. The director set a task to embody own vision of India on the stage. India, which M. Soshina gave to spectators, was placed in the temple of love. Scenery and costumes were made of long entire sari. Crocus color became a leitmotif. In the first act, the stage "was covered" with two curtains and the forestage - with flowers. Carpet from flowers went to the depth of stage and turned into temple of love. During performance sari was being lifted upwards as if baring the stage. Secrets of love temple were being unveiled the same way. In the middle of stage there was an altar and lamp from dried pumpkins above. All action was developing around it. "Chilims" (calean) with incenses from the same pumpkins were set in corners. The Indian temple music, muffled light and different tones of crocus created meditative atmosphere. Costumes were made without needles and threads. The artist dressed actors in sari from entire pieces of fabric.

Costumes seemed carefully thought over and complex. The costume of the main character was a little ironic - this was some kind of association with Indian gurus. Tsar (actor I. Turaev) was dressed in magnificent long skirt, beads from flowers decorated his breast, and the crown had a form of arch with small bell in the middle. Having combined several rolls of fabric and various colors, the artist created the land of flowers, love, burning hidden passions and sari. The play showed love of the tsar for hetaera and at the same time hidden desires of each of us. At the end, when the stage was completely "undressed", just flowers remained. However, according to the plot just lovers and their feeling remain.

Work of the artist and director forms ensemble. M. Soshina and A. Khodjakuli realized many theatrical experiments. They can do absolute different staging of the same play due to their rich imagination. A bright example is "Raksu S'amo" and "Secret of Chinese woman" after A. Navoi's poem "Seven planets". This is a legend about shah Bahram who won many countries and did not find happiness in great power. He tried happiness in love, but, even having fallen in love for the beauty of world, he remained unhappy. Fully despaired he decided that there was no happiness in earthy things and finally became happy only in love for the God. This poem was staged at two theatres - Russian theatre of drama and studio "Eski Masjit" in Karshi. Naturally, actors were different as well as solution of staging. At Russian theatre the east was more stylized, and in studio of "Eski Masjit" - simpler and "more juicy".

"Secret of Chinese woman" at Russian theatre acts in the foyer, on portable stage. Scenery replaces natural flowers. Costumes are the major work of the artist. Many theatrical critics and ordinary spectators point out M. Soshina's talent in costume design. Exquisite costumes in "Secret of Chinese woman", as critic K. Artykov said, are made in style of artists from "World of Art", even on motifs of Bakst. Patterns on fabric represent mixture of many oriental countries, from ancient China to the Caucasus. The artist created a beautiful legend by means of painted silks, fine curls, plaits from threads and burning arrows. The cut of costumes, flared sleeves and deep neckline are identical with dresses of geishas and dancers. The love of shah Bahram to Chinese woman is so aesthetic and beautiful, as if "painted with Chinese hieroglyphs" on thin silk. The play staging is also original as oriental legends "were performed" by European actors, and scenery represented the East in eyes of the West.

The play "Raksu S'amo" at studio "Eski Masjit" was solved by minimal art means keeping deep content of the idea. All actors are dressed in robes inside out, scenery includes scarves painted with large juicy brushstrokes and poles. The play seems tailored from small pieces, i.e. in style of folk cover of patchwork - "kuraka". The actors are building palaces, tents and caravan from tags and poles by themselves. Servitors of shah Bahram remind dervishes, dusty, hungry and mad, while in "Secret of Chinese woman" they are rich viziers. Costumes of viziers-dervishes remind shamanic and have accessories giving mystery to their image. Costumes helped to transfer ideas of Sufis, perfectly harmonizing with Sufi dances - dhikr and corresponding to classical rhythms of makom.

The play "Language of birds" staged by A. Khodjakuli after A. Navoi and F. Attar's poems became the tenth work of Maria Soshina. The premiere was held in November, 2005 in Tashkent at Uzbek National Academic Drama theatre. Critic A. Artykov told about "Language of birds": " ... Rhythm and pattern of Sufi chants follow space vibrations. Circularly. Circular is poetic text: plot and deep content of verses. All poetics of "Language of birds" by Alisher Navoi... Ascetically decorated stage is crossed with white lines - strained ropes. This is universal nest. These are heavenly traces of stars gone out, these are lines of human lives and just lines of alone flying feathers... this black-and-white illusive space contrasts with paradise birds magnificently dressed. Costumes of birds, characters of the play, have come from folk art and rich paints of handmade fabrics. They are mixture of rough theatrical costume and "haute couture"... This noisy and contrast wandering within web of destiny, with chants and puppet theatre street performances, gradually develops into tragic action and last scene of "coming to own soul" and integration of separate human "personalities". Loneliness, infinite searches and intricate repeatability of events... (A. K.)"

Bright satin and brocade costumes of birds, symbolizing illusiveness and transitory of earthy values, are replaced by white attires in final scenes. That happens after comprehension of truth. Actors as if bared their souls and threw away fussiness, pride and forgot passions together with bird attires. Now they are white, pure and equal before the God.

M. Soshina uses natural materials - clay, wood, stones, flax, cotton, natural pigments, etc. Besides that she works in materials of rare texture. She used medical gloves ("Bloody wedding") and ultra pop costumes ("Dream in summer night"), plastic bags and artificial leather ("Salomea"), etc.

Shakespearian personages in "Dream in summer night" staged by Avlakuli act on children's playground with roundabouts. They are dressed as today's youth - in miniskirts, high heels and multi-colored gaiters. All that was done to bring our youth to times of Shakespeare and give them opportunity see how they do there.

In "Bloody wedding" (Ilkhom theatre, stage director Khodjakuli) the atmosphere of death and mourning is reigning. Actors are dressed in black. Interesting is solution of vineyard by means of rubber gloves and hoses. Rubber "vineyard" is fixed on the background, and rubber gloves are filled by "grape juice" after each turning point. After murder, blood is being sprinkled from rubber clusters and they drop. M. Soshina transferred heat of passions symbolically.

Another play staged by Khodjakuli "Salomea" (at "Artishock" in Kazakhstan,) amazes by costumes, scenery and unusual hairstyles. The actress playing Salomea had to shave half the head. She did that only after the artist Maria Soshina agreed to do the same hairstyle. Bodies of actors are wrapped with polythene, as if made of plastic, and the second part of costume is made of artificial leather. The action is developing on the dance carpet, and spectators are beside. The screen from organic glass is only element of scenery. Each character appeared from the overturned screen, as if going down to catacomb. That creates feeling of cosmic atmosphere. The ancient legend grows up to universal problems. Unearthly emotions are splashed out on mats and shown by means of specific plastique of actors. Seminude bodies wrapped with polythene as if transfer the message that the world and people have turned into slaves of own body and consumption, that we pay more attention to perishable forms than to the essence. K. Balmont's words perfectly reflect the idea of stage director: "Greatness, mystery and delight of love make life and death equal to lovers... All voices are getting silent before love, except for the voice of imperious desire which dazzles the eyes by light, changes souls, changes people and subjects - and precious subjects become nothing, and nothing becomes a boundless empire where people and animals become gods and enter the world unhuman" (K. Balmont).

Major color of the play is cold lunar light. People have become cold and blue, lunar blood flows in their veins. Even their children coming to the cruel world and not getting response to true feelings became empoisoned, even more than their parents. Critic K. Artykov compares dark atmosphere and hopelessness of the play with German expressionism. Cruelty, cold and artificiality of "not breathing" costumes reminds criticism of German expressionist Max Reinhardt.

The plays, which were decorated by M. Soshina, show that she does not keep any frameworks of definite culture and historical accuracy in details, trying to avoid naturalism, poorly imitating reality. She creates scenery and costumes, not hiding theatrical conventionality and trying to realize the idea of stage director. When Khodjakuli was asked: "What does Masha Soshina mean for you, for your theatre?" He answered: "She is my hands. That concerns not only scenography or costumes. We have worked together for six years and think that we were lucky that the destiny brought us together..."

Masha was asked: "What is your role at the theatre of Avlakuli?" She answered: "He is locomotive; he is a head and heart of the theatre. We discuss each future play in details, the director tells what moves him, I try to materialize his ideas in scenery and costumes, and then Avlakuli chooses what he likes."

The director and artist realize big projects. They go farer ordinary, everyday themes. Their play staging can be compared with space mystery. Borders between epochs and cultures merge in harmony and form new theatrical culture and epoch. Maria Soshina always tries to combine things which earlier were considered disharmonious. The purpose of the artist is to create fruitful atmosphere for ideas of the director. Maria can easily refuse the ideas when they can distract attention of spectators. The artist chooses major color and style proceeding from the play and tasks of the director.

Maria Soshina realizes projects in cinema. The first work was the film "Oedipus" after Sophocles and Seneca, produced by A. Khodjakuli. Later they did documentary film "Going against stream" about remarkable artist I. Savitsky. M. Soshina is working at costumes for the film of young film-director T. Musakov.

Gunesh Khodjakulieva


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