Man Above All: Stage a Theater in Moscow ‘Gorbachev’


All production takes place in a dressing room with two vanity stations and two mirrors. There’s a rack of dresses and wigs scattered around the space. This is work in progress. A large sign at the entrance reads: “Silence! Performance continues.”

Khamatova and Mironov wear what might be their usual streetwear: a hoodie, jeans, a plain black shirt. They will change on stage throughout the performance, changing their clothes and appearance as they get older.

The two actors begin by reading their lines aloud and discuss how to imitate their characters. Gradually, through discussion, they adopt their role, most visibly mimicking accents: the southern Cossack-derived pronunciation of Mikhail with long vowels, and the high-pitched chirping of Raisa of a great enthusiastic philosophy major in a country where the only accepted philosophy school is Marxism.

Khamatova and Mironov, who are among the best drama theater actors of their generation, leave the stage only once for the break of this three-hour show. Slowly and smoothly, they read and animate their lives: the story of Stalin’s purges is followed by the terrible war with Germany. Then their lives are consumed college romances and finally Gorbachev’s rise to the top of the party nomenklatura ranks.

Gorbachev’s story at the head of one of the world’s two superpowers is considered background noise: “It was only a six-year workday,” Raisa says from the stage. In the end, we only see 90-year-old Mikhail, when the actors are completely immersed in their characters. (At this point Mironov is wearing a mask that covers his entire head with Gorbachev’s port wine birthmark.) For the last few minutes, Mikhail alone mourns his wife’s death from leukemia in 1999, remembering the last. Words: “Remember when we returned the white shoes we borrowed from Nina for our wedding?”

The success of the game and the insatiable The demand for tickets for up to $250, which sold out in half an hour, could be attributed to their creators having something personal at stake.

For Hermanis, Gorbachev, who freed his native Latvia from the Soviet yoke, said in an interview with a Russian state broadcaster that he was the third person who “changed his life the most after his father and mother”.


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