Bashkir State Academic Drama Theatre named after Mazhit Gafuri brought to Moscow the play “Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes” that was nominated for six Golden Mask awards.
“Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes”, the debut novel of Guzel Yakhina immediately became a bestseller. The production of Bashkir State Academic Drama Theatre named after Mazhit Gafuri is the first dramatisation of this novel written by Yaroslava Pulinovich, and Khurmatulla Utyashev translated it into Bashkir.
First, the play describes a prosperous Tatar village in the thirties, then an eastbound train and finally Angara riverbank, when a whole family was deported to frozen woods of Siberia, as it turned out for a very difficult life. In the novel, life of the main character Zuleikha (Rimma Kagarmanova) undergoes changes of such degree that our consciousness was not prepared for. The age-old foundations and traditions are destroyed, Zuleikha’s unhappy family perishes, her gloomy kulak husband Murtaza (Khurmatulla Utyashev) is killed by a commissioner, her spiteful mother-in-law is left behind at home to certain death… Only illiterate humbled Zuleikha has survived and gone into exile, pregnant with a new baby. The thing is that in exile, Zuleikha really opens her eyes; she develops like a human being, acquires her son, and love, and dignity, and new horizons. Moral here is ambivalent; life turns out to be broader than any moral: Murtaza’s murderer, commissioner Ignatov, has awakend both her soul and womanhood, protecting her son with his surname. Yet being in love with him, Zuleikha always feels guilty for betraying her own kin.
The leitmotif of the entire performance is Sufi legend about the King of the Birds who could punish and forgive; other birds are looking for him, dying on the way, and when finding him they realize that they themselves are the powerful King. To punish or pardon, blend in under the pressure or remain a human being, to awake and open your eyes is the choice of a person, not the King. An individual carries in himself all the worst things and the finest ones. Costumes and make-up in the play support this simple idea - quilted jackets and sheepskin coats, tunics, old coats and hats are covered with sparkles; filth and light exist together. The love scene of Zuleikha and Ignatov (Azat Valitov) is an act of purification, when they devoutly wash the clay from each other's faces, returning to their original appearance.
The performance of Ayrat Abdushakhmanov seems to “overflow” the auditorium: the stage goes beyond the stalls, acting continues in the aisles, and lightning figures appear on the ceiling like frescoes: an exiled artist Ikonnikov (Ildar Gumerov) was given the task “to carry on propaganda”, and he paints his companions in misfortune, makes his portraits in the spirit of socialist realism for authorities, and even draws a five-pointed star, which disappears later. And faces of new holy martyrs of the Stalin’s regime remain above the auditorium like in church above the flock.