Founded by artists and designers - participants of DaNet [YesNo] underground theatre of Boris Ponizovsky. AKHE’s productions, synthetically combining various art forms, consist of kaleidoscopically changing combinations of colors, textures, forms, light, and sound.
Founded in 1989 by artists and designers Maxim Isayev, Pavel Semchenko, and Vadim Vasilyev – participants of DaNet [YesNo] underground theatre of Boris Ponizovsky. The first street performances, conducted on the basis of Pushkinskaya 10, the center of independent art of the 1990s, gained acclaim for AKHE and served as the starting point for the creation of their own theatrical language. Several years later Vasilyev left the group. Since mid-1990s AKHE, under the leadership of Isayev and Semchenko, has constantly participated in major European and Russian art festivals (Unidram, Arena, Fidena – Germany, Fringe – Scotland, Belo Horizonte – Brazil, Elagin Park – Russia, St. Petersburg, and etc.), actively collaborated with Slava Polunin, Anton Adasinsky, Andrei Moguchy, Bolshoi Drama Theatre named after Tovstonogov, Alexandrinsky Theatre, as well as theatres from other countries – Lantaaren (the Netherlands), Toihous (Austria), Project Theatre (Germany), Kampnagel (Germany), Teatr KANA (Poland), and etc.
During the decades of its existence, the Engineering Theatre, having no followers or imitators, have produced over than 40 productions of various genres and forms – productions for chamber theatre spaces, site-specific and street shows, performances.
In their productions Isayev and Semchenko turn to archetypical stories (Sine Loco – the ancient myth about Ariadne and Theseus, The Cabinet of Curiosities – the legend about the creation of the world, Between the Two – the Tibetan book of the Dead, Mr Carmen – the novel by Prosper Mérimée, Faustus in the Cube. 2360, Faustus. Signature – the legend about doctor Faustus), classical stories (Shchedrin – the Chronicles of Dead Mayors based on the novel The History of a Town by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Foam of the Daze based on the eponymous novel by Boris Vian, Macaria’s Archive based on Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years and etc.) and also use their own texts and scripts (The White Cabin, Pookh and Prakh, Filling the Gaps, Gobo. Digital Glossary, The Catalogue of the Hero, momentary cabaret Gloria Transit).
AKHE talks with the audience using the metaphoric language of visual images, appealing to associative perception. The method of Isayev and Semchenko is based on improvisational interaction with the object, which, during the entire course of action, experiences various metamorphoses. Communication between the characters, as well as the characters and the audience, happens through contact with the object. The process of creating stage microcosm for the Engineering Theatre members is also the result of this process. In order to convince the audience that their world is genuine, they mystify the surrounding reality, showing its secret facets – invisible for the Philistines, yet seen by the eye of an artist.
AKHE’s productions, synthetically combining various art forms, consist of kaleidoscopically changing combinations of colors, textures, forms, light, and sound. The action breaks into a number of interchangeable, intrinsically valuable episodes. The cast also frequently changes – permanent members Isayev and Semchenko often invite for participation actors from state theatre companies, ballet dancers, circus actors, jazz and electronic musicians, designers, etc.
The White Cabin – 1996
Pukh and Prakh – 1999
Wet Wedding – 2001
Mr Carmen – 2003
Gobo. Digital Glossary – 2007
The Catalogue of the Hero – 2007
The Depot of Ingenious Delusions – 2012
Between the Two – 2014
Foam of the Daze – 2015
The Cabinet of Curiosities – 2016
“Isayev and Semchenko poeticized in theatre those fields of human knowledge which were traditionally perceived as totally non-poetic, such as physics, chemistry, mechanics. In their early productions they actively used their own engineering inventions, all kinds of textures. <...>. In the forming of AKHE’s specific style the artistic milieu of St. Petersburg of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the obsession with avant-garde and modernism played an important role. One of the greatest influences on AKHE members was Boris Ponizovsky, one of the key figures of non-official culture who gathered people around him, inventing and creating his own small theatre universe.”
"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal",
“… productions are based on the constant play between the seeming and the real, the concrete and the abstract, the idea and the form, on the juggling with truth and ostensibility. Reality and mirage are constantly interchangeable.”
"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal"
“They are called demiurges, alchemists, hooligans, DIY guys, and even godmakers. They call themselves “operators” and “architects of space. <...>. “AKHE is a group, in which the process of creation, not the result, is elevated to the level of artistic phenomenon. AKHE is a theatre company, the members of which do not perform any roles, do not imitate anyone, and barely speak. Here they act. Two bearded ‘engineers’-actionists (who are often joined by professional actors) are creating – or, vice versa, destructing – entire worlds in front of us. The only law which governs the action in AKHE’s early productions: everything that is on stage or enters it – the man, the thing, the sound, the light (shaken, stirred, soaked, set on fire) – should inevitably change, transform, or combine in the most unexpected way”.
"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal"
“Genre range of AKHE is incredibly wide, but in its basis it is still a theatre-performance, a theatre of objects, in which even the most unexpected objects and substances can act.”