The stunning theatrical phantasmagoria Man with No Name was composed by people with big names: Gogol Center leading actor Nikita Kukushkin, composer and performer Peter Aidu, designer Alexander Barmenkov and, finally, the founder of the Gogol Center himself, Kirill Serebrennikov. The show is an amazing example of "horizontal theatre" where each participant is a star.
At the centre of the show is the historical figure of Prince Vladimir Odoevsky, a writer, philosopher, inventor of new musical instruments and culinary recipes, visionary and mystic, who they called "the Russian Faust”. However, the genre of this enigmatic action is far from biopic. Man with No Name is beyond any genre. Critical relevance, high metaphysics, surreal visions, acrobatics, clowning - everything is blended here in an alchemical crucible. Every turn of story balances on the edge of life and death, reality and dream, madness and insight.
The show about the "Russian Faust '' who is painfully trying to find answers to eternal and vital questions was originally staged in pre-war Moscow, but surprisingly has become even more relevant now. It is about how the power of imagination and talent can overcome the shackles of a totalitarian regime, the determinism of life, and even gravity. A unique instrument made of ten reassembled acoustic pianos and household utensils, a panharmonikon, occupies most of the stage. In Man with No Name the panharmonikon replaces an entire orchestra. and Nikita Kukushkin's fantastic way of acting replaces a whole ensemble of actors.
Kukushkin travels through the centuries, in the blink of an eye transforming from our contemporary into a Russian prince of the XIX century, then from the prince into a nameless character of the times to come, and then also into Beethoven, into an emperor, into a policeman, into a child. Sometimes he breaks away from the sinful earth and literally floats above the stage.
The performance staged at the Gogol Center now sounds like a hymn to the very phenomenon of the innovative theatre which has become the last island of salvation and resistance in a Russia gradually plunging into dictatorship. Shortly after the outbreak of war, the Gogol Center was destroyed but the spirit of incredible creative freedom that had been built into its foundation has been preserved in one of its most important productions. Recently, it miraculously managed to revive outside of Russia.