The absurdities of modern-day Russia are reflected in the latest production by acclaimed director Moguchiy.

Circo Ambulante

Theatre of Nations, Moscow

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An island where corruption is rife, no project ever gets off the ground and the only company still in business is an abattoir processing bull’s testicles, a delicacy for the happy few. Escape is no option; ticket prices are astronomical. In many ways, these bizarre situations in Circo Ambulante remind one of the current climate in Russia. For director Andrej Moguchiy these kinds of absurdities are part of everyday life. Together with Maxim Isaev he has created an unyielding world compelling the main characters to undertake some extraordinary deeds. Circo Ambulante is Moguchiy’s first collaboration with the renowned Theatre of Nations, a public’s favourite at the Holland Festival 2010 with Shukshin’s Stories.



Maxim Isaev
Andrej Moguchiy
Andrej Moguchiy
stage design
Maxim Isaev
Alexander Sivaev
music, sound design
DJ Pestel
sound management
Evgeny Lastochkin
Sergei Kozhukhov
Yevgeniya Shirokova
Konstantin Shepanovsky
3D animation
Zhenya Isaeva
Masha Nebesnaya
costumes assistant
Irina Dolgova
Liya Akhedzhakova
Albert Filozov
Alexey Ingelevich
Alexandr Stroev
Richard Bondarev
Vladimir Eremin
Olga Lapshina
Natalia Pavlenkova
Arina Marakulina
Ilias Tameev
Kirill Byrkin
Anna Gusarova
Tatiana Parshina
Nikita Policeimako
Theatre of Nations

Background information

The Russian Theatre of Nations returns at the Holland Festival. In 2010 they staged Shukshin’s Stories at the festival, a production based on the stories of the author Vasily Shukshin. This year, the company perform in Circo Ambulante, written and directed by Andrej Moguchiy in collaboration with the designer and performance artist Maxim Isaev. Moguchiy is an award-winning director from Saint Petersburg, who is known for his experimental use of the theatre space and his love for surreal worlds with often wordless narrative, featuring cripples, vagabonds, dwarfs, giants on stilts, puppetry and plenty of pyrotechnics. It's the purest form of absurdism, in the Saint-Petersburg tradition of the writer Nikolai Gogol. At the request of Liya Akhedzhakova, a famous Russian comedy actress and an outspoken dissident, Moguchiy travelled to Moscow to take up his first direction with Theatre of Nations. The collaboration resulted in Circo Ambulante, a subtle criticism of the current state of Russian theatre, which is being heavily subsidised by Vladimir Putin and his associates – which, incidentally, is also the case for Theatre of Nations. It's true that Circo Ambulante is about modern Russia, according to Moguchiy, but he maintains that he is in the business of art, not politics. His methods of expression are never explicitly political; instead they are poetic, visual and abstract.

The absurdist production Circo Ambulante has been loosely inspired by Miguel de Cervantes' famous story of Don Quichot, about the foolish gentleman who battles windmills. Moguchiy and Isaev explored the curious phenomenon of Quixotism: why would someone undertake lofty, extravagant projects which in the eyes of outsiders come across as completely crazy? The answer of Moguchiy and Isaev is as simple as it is mystifying: because of love. In their play, the particular love in focus is between the characters of Maria and Anton, played by Liya Akhedzhakova and Albert Filozov. The story is set on a small, remote volcanic island. The old steel factory on the island has been sitting idle for years, since the mines closed down. The economy is fully dependent on its meat industry, which processes bull's testicles for export. Only the testicles are used, the bull's carcasses are fed to the sharks in the ocean. The island is frequently ravaged by rain storms and hurricanes. The rich elite have long since left the island by aeroplane. The Great Leader and the Chief of Police are in charge. A long time ago, the island used to have a successful circus, but this had to make way for the National Flea Market. After having visited a foreign group of islands, the Great Leader decides to revive the old circus to create jobs. The National Flea Market is discontinued. In the crater of an extinct volcano a new circus troupe is established. Auditions are held and the new performers are offered a good salary with great benefits. A new national ideal springs up. The Great Leader has great ambitions: his island must become the World Centre for Clowning.

The story by Moguchiy and Isaev is a bold flight of fancy, in which reality and fantasy, the extraordinary and the mundane merge. Recognisable as but at the same time the opposite of the world we live in. Circo Ambulante is not a conventional play, according to Moguchiy. “We collected and made up an enormous amount of material, which provided so much information about our characters that the story was almost created by itself.” For Moguchiy the guiding principle in the story was the similarities between the characters of Maria and Don Quixote. Moguchiy: “What were those similarities? To answer that question, we thought of the idea to add the element of the circus to the story.”

The production developed organically as a performance with an immense and grotesque set, devised by Isaev, and lighting by Alexander Sivaev. Moguchiy: “This production is the result of a collective process of creative interaction. The intuition of the actors proved crucial to resolve certain situations in the story, often in a manner which you could not have thought of yourself. That's why I always prefer a collective way of working.”

Moguchiy remains fascinated by the theme of Quixotism: “Is it a disease, a sort of madness? Or is it an essential and necessary part of the human soul? What drives people to undertake things that go completely against our rationality? These instances create a clash between man and society, especially when a 'madman' manages to inspire the masses to adopt his ideas. Is that a good or a bad thing? I don't know. This is what I want to explore in Circo Ambulante.


The Theatre of Nations was founded in 1987 as the Friendship of Nations Theatre. In 1991 it was given its current name. It's one of the most broadly orientated theatres in Russia and takes up a unique position among the cultural institutions of Russia. Led by artistic director and actor Yevgeny Mironov, the theatre initiates and develops a huge variety of different productions across all genres and trends, and organises various national and international festivals. The State Theatre of Nations also produces its own performances and plays a central role in the education of a new generation of theatre makers. Big names from the European theatre are invited to show their work, including Marina Vladi, director Peter Stein and the dance company Parsons Dance. Mironov is also one of the artistic directors of the Russian Territory Festival and a member of the Commission for Arts and Culture, under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation. Following Shukshin’s Stories in 2010, Circo Ambulante is the theatre's second visit to the Holland Festival.


Actor and director Andrej Moguchiy (Leningrad / Saint Petersburg, 1961) studied engineering at the Leningrad College of Aviation Instruments and Radar Systems Manufacture, before graduating at the Leningrad Institute of Culture (Department of Acting and Directing) in 1986. That same year, he founded the independent theatre company Formal Theatre, touring Europe with a number of productions in the 1990's, including The Bald Soprano by Eugène Ionesco, Andrei Belyi's Petersburg and Ivan Turgenev's Two Sisters. His most famous production from this period is A School for Fools after Sasha Sokolov, winning him the First Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Festival, as well as the Grand-Prix at the Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF). Moguchiy is known for his genre transcending creativity. He staged Boris Godunov at Moscow's Cathedral Square right in front of the Kremlin, a solo with prima ballerina Diana Vishneva, the circus theatre show Krakatuk and various gala performances. Since the late 1990's Moguchiy has been frequently invited to conduct master-classes in Berlin and Helsinki. In 2004 he worked as a director at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Moguchiy was awarded the Golden Mask, the Russian national theatre award, four times; three times he won an award at the Golden Floodlight Theatre Festival in Saint Petersburg. He also won the Stansilavski International Theatre Award (2011), the Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities (2010), and in 2007 he was awarded a medal for services to the fatherland.

Clifford Chance