Skip to main content
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

12 - Drama and Theatre


Russian drama in the twentieth century is inextricably linked to the theatrical performance: after the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (1826–1914) introduced the concept of the director at the Meiningen Company in Germany in the 1870s, the way in which a play was represented on stage became a skill in its own right: the art of directing was born. Therefore, this chapter links developments in dramatic writing to innovations in theatre art, and vice versa.

We will explore the emergence of a director’s theatre in Russia in the 1890s, which brought on to the stage the plays of a new generation of playwrights by relying on psychological realism. This approach met resistance in the 1910s, when the Symbolist theatre proposed instead a return to archaic forms such as rituals. The Revolution created a new impetus for artistic innovation combined with political commitment, and throughout the 1920s Russian theatre and drama thrived: satires exposed the bourgeois resistance to the Revolution, while theatre directors collaborated with artists from the visual arts, architecture, and cinema. The ‘great experiment’ – not only in theatre, but also in literature, film, and visual arts – came to an end with the imposition of Socialist Realism in the 1930s, which forced theatres into quasi-psychological realism and dramatists to write politically engaged and ideologically sound plays. Reacting to this, theatres innovated production techniques and staged contemporary readings of the classics, which offered a means for social and political criticism in a veiled form. Only a few playwrights gained prominence in the post-war era, and their work is linked to certain theatres.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Russian Literature
  • Online ISBN: 9780511975806
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *