The Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (since 2006), participant and winner of numerous awards at prestigious international festivals, winner of the Russian National Theatre Award THE GOLDEN MASK, Master Teacher of the students of acting and directing.
The Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (since 2006), participant and winner of numerous awards at prestigious international festivals, winner of the Russian National Theatre Award THE GOLDEN MASK, Master Teacher of the students of acting (2006–2011) and directing (2016–2021), who were admitted by BTK together with the Department of Puppet Theatre at the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts (RGISI, formerly known as SPbGATI).
As of today, Ruslan Kudashov has directed over 40 productions in various cities and countries. The majority of them are synthetic productions, combining diverse systems of puppet theatre with the method of openly operating the puppet. The philosophical parable is the genre, which the director approaches most often: it allows speaking to the audience on the level of eternal values and universal human categories, as well as approaching the fundamental questions of being.
When Ruslan Kudashov came to BTK, a new stage in the life of this theatre started: the company of young actors was formed, and the repertoire was revamped almost completely. The theatre began to offer all kinds of productions both for children and adults – movement-based, musical, drama, visual, puppet. The theatre started touring extensively across Russia and abroad. In 2014 the international festival BTK-FEST: Contemporary Puppet Theatre was organized, in 2017 BTK-LAB: Laboratory for young directors dedicated to new children’s literature took place for the first time. Today BTK offers behind-the-scenes tours, organizes performances, lectures, and meetings with the audience, gradually increasing the professional level and prestige of the art of puppet theatre in Russia.
Potudan’ — 2001, Potudan’ Theatre
Nevsky Prospekt — 2002, Potudan’ Theatre»
We — 2009, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
Shakespeare-Laboratory — 2009, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
Bashlachev. Homo Cantans — 2011, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
Montague and Capulet — 2011, Puppet Theatre in Bialystok (Poland)
The Song of Songs — 2013, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
The Spire — 2016, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
Brodsky. Out of Nowhere — 2016, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
The Life of Insects — 2017, Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK)
Name: Kudashov Ruslan Ravilevich
Date and place of birth: 5 March 1972, Leningrad
Education: SPbGATI: actor of puppet theatre (master teacher – Igor Zaykin, graduation year 1999), director of drama theatre (master teacher – Grigory Kozlov, graduation year 2001)
Career: In secondary school, my literature teacher Elena Vladimirovna Yakovleva had a great impact on me. She taught me to read all kinds of interesting books, and thanks to her I tried – for a long time and unsuccessfully – to get accepted by the department of philology… Then I was accidentally admitted to the Theatre Institute.
Naturally, I was strongly influenced by Rezo Gabriadze’s The Song of the Volga, which premiered around that time; Philippe Genty toured with his production Voyageur immobile. Then the production Potudan’ appeared which our small theatre group tried to preserve; thus we embarked on our own journey, gradually drifting away from Grigory Kozlov’s workshop. At that time it was not as easy to create a theatre as it is now. We started living our own life, a small theatre emerged – we worked there without any formal registration, any formal documents. We somehow survived, getting virtually no money for our work. Later we were noticed. The production Nevsky Prospekt appeared, winning both THE GOLDEN SOFIT and THE GOLDEN MASK. After that, two more productions – The Sky in a Suitcase, or Puppies in the Night and A Feast in Time of Plague – happened.
Then the story with the Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (BTK) began: the time changed, and Potudan’ Theatre started experiencing problems. Here it became possible to admit a group of students, to transform the entire environment. That is what we were doing for 10 years – in collaboration with Sergei Byzgu and Yana Tumina. Here we created a certain number of works, in which theatre text was delivered in a different way, where a theatre language was formed, where we were searching for our own path. Potudan’ Theatre had also looked for its own way and had had its own identity; that had also been a search in the same direction.
Now a new stage begins. I cannot yet understand what it is.
Favorite authors, subjects, stories: Somehow a thought about The Biblical Trilogy crossed my mind; there was some kind of an inner turning point. Then another – poetic – trilogy emerged. It is not related to puppet theatre or, rather, related to it to a smaller extent: Bashlachev – Vysotsky – Brodsky.
The Spire was vital to me at the time when it emerged. However, quite a few people do not recognize it as one of the most important works for me. Yet it is an important and, so to say, painful work – and very dear to me.
Favorite traditional system of puppets/texture: I do not have such a system. The texture changes, the puppet changes. Once, for example, I totally misunderstood the theatre of Pestrushka (Punch). However, today I find it interesting. I am attracted to some kind of brutal, fairground booth-like, folk energy. I have always been attracted to marionettes. In one way or another, there is magic in them. In a nutshell, I experience shifts in my attractions.
Does a performance need text? Absolutely! It is poetry, every poet continues working with the language, enriching and developing it – and, in one way or another, discovering something new. For me this is sine qua non, although for someone else this may not be important. The language has certain laws, whereas directing is connected with either reinforcing the law or searching for – and finding – one’s own regulations, one’s own law. Therefore the language is very important. Besides that, its roots are in the aspacial, atemporal field.
Is the expression “puppet theatre” still relevant today? The expression “puppet theatre” is less functional today than, say, “the theatre of form”, “formative theatre”, “visual theatre”, or “figurative theatre.” All of those are more relevant. Thus, it seems to me that “puppet theatre” is less relevant today, but in the future it might regain some of its relevance. In real life everything also unravels, overturns. Sometimes all of that “relevant” stuff becomes irksome.
What, in your opinion, is the difference between puppet theatre in Russia and the West?
It is hard to tell; this is not my forte. It seems to me that western theatre was not so impeded in its development: in our country there were very strong standards, set either by Obraztsov Theatre, or the Soviet perception of puppet theatre. Of course, there were certain “outbreaks” such as The Urals Zone or Sudarushkin’s individual searches, but very few people remember about them. Our poor country is seriously impeded by that.
What is happening now in St. Petersburg, to all those small and even smaller theatres, to our theatre – all that has a potential for some curious development. However, I have a feeling that we are still heavily lagging behind in certain aspects.
What is useful about collaboration and cultural exchange?
First of all, exchange should be useful to us. We look at others and see something which we do not understand at all. We see that Russian puppet theatre has a hard time treading some of the paths. The thing is that all the subconscious imagery, all those Freudian traits on Russian soil acquire terribly pathological undertones, which do not result in anything creative, whereas we see the work of Duda Paiva with his travel to the subconscious and understand that the person exists on the verge, but does not cross it. We find it hard to take a leap somewhere. Of course, exchanges, contacts are meant to teach us something. Young and old people should also learn from them and find those curious…
“The word in Kudashov’s Biblical trilogy is in no way an instrument of drama (for sacred texts this would be not as much blasphemous as it would be stylistically incorrect).”
"St. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti"
“…Ruslan Kudashov’s ability to find ‘terrestrial soil’ for his elevated metaphors, to concentrate stage dreams into concrete, distinct (although quite compound) images – all that gives hope that poetic theatre in St. Petersburg may be the result of work and director’s artistry, and not just of unconvincing gurgling (as it often happens).”
"St. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti"
“Director Ruslan Kudashov is known to the faithful theatergoers of THE GOLDEN MASK Festival because of his philosophical parables. His productions Viy and Kholstomer spoke about the innermost things and were aimed at experienced, mature audience. The more unexpected was the way he addressed such a simple (at first glance) fairytale as The Little Round Bun. For the first time Kudashov invites to the theatre the youngest audience members – perhaps even those who are seeing their first show. On the chamber stage three young actors perform the well-known folklore story around a huge spinning wheel with the help of the characters who have just been knitted. A sock turns into the hungry Wolf, a long scarf becomes the agile Fox, whereas a felt boot becomes incredibly similar to the country house oven. The Little Round Bun is a tangle, and, although at the end its life is predictably cut short, every small audience member takes away a gift – a tiny tangle of yellow threads.”
The brochure of THE GOLDEN MASK Festival
“It is impossible not to notice one of the remarkable characteristic features of Kudashov’s work: the way he is – on equal terms and respectfully – demanding towards the audience. It does not matter whether the audience is adult or young. Irrespective of the fact whether an audience member is equipped with sufficient cultural baggage, Kudashov believes in his or her ability ‘to read’, in one way or another, the symbolism of a huge spinning wheel (the center of the stage arrangement in The Little Round Bun, also functioning as the playground for puppet characters). For some people it is a solar symbol or an image of the solar cycle, for others it is just a merry-go-round – as well as an unmistakable way of organizing a very cozy space of the chamber stage.”
"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal"
“Ruslan Kudashov, one of the best directors-puppeteers in the country, has brought up his students as truly universal actors: they have perfectly mastered all the techniques of puppet theatre, but also, when they are openly operating the puppets, they prove that they are strong drama actors.”
“Kudashov, as many other, have brought the actor from behind the screen, yet he continues exploring the potential of an open dialogue between man and puppet. The scales of his actors – and these are not just people, but objects as well – always have a meaning. Their either subordinate or privileged position in the performance depends on the chosen subject. The complexity of the relationships between actor and puppet, their mutual enrichment with characteristic features, inherent to only one of them, is a norm for Kudashov; he constantly works with this norm without letting the theatre fashion trends influence him.”
"Bez tzenzuri: Molodaya teatralnaya rezhissura XXI veka" [Without Censorship: Young Theatre Directors of the 21st Century]