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On the cover
7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.

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Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.

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Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.

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Kyiv Culture

Pulling Strings

Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

Set up in 1927, Kyivs Academic Puppet Theatre is the oldest of its kind in Ukraine. Winner of the Druzhba (Friendship) international prize in 1995 and member of UNIMA (UNI0N Internationale de la Marionnette in French), the theatre is as its title suggests its professional team stages plays in a classical, or academic, fashion. With a 27-year-tenure as art director, Chernihiv-born Mykola Petrenko himself is an authority. A puppet theatre is the first theatre a child ever attends, he says. Our first and foremost goal is to generate the sense of beauty and wonder for children from a very young age.
Thus, the Theatre does not produce avant-garde or experimental performances with strange-looking puppets, Petrenko says. Our puppet fox looks like a real fox, our puppet squirrel looks like a real squirrel. And fair enough, since children, living in the concrete jungles of big cities, are deprived of the chance to interact with nature. They do not know what animals look like in reality. And we dont want to distort their imagination right from the start. It is like teaching children the basic skills of reading and writing in a classical way. To top it off, Petrenko thinks that puppet theatres must be free of charge like secondary schools, because culture, together with healthcare and education, is fundamental in a prosperous country.

For One And All
Currently, the theatres repertoire spans more than 30 plays, including world-famous stories such as Cinderella, Thumbelina, Peter Pan, as well as Slavonic folk tales Ivasyk-Telesyk, Hen Ryaba, and others. For those aged 16-plus, the theatre has spicier options like Decameron, Forest Song, and The Divine Comedy.
Of course, the main attraction of each show is the puppets, Petrenko says. Our rod, wire, and jigging puppets are something special; they cannot be bought in a supermarket like Barbie dolls. We boast our own atelier creating puppets, settings, stage props, and all relevant items. This is a multi-stage process from drawing a sketch of a puppet-to-be to putting finishing touches to its garments. Each puppet is crafted for a certain play, and cannot be used elsewhere. It takes one to two months to manufacture a set of 10 -12 puppets, each about 70 centimetres tall, for one performance. The material they are made of is also classic papier-mâché.

Invisible Heroes
Puppeteers are adults who cannot say goodbye to childhood. First of all, they are hugely talented individuals whose powerful presence is rather felt than seen. On-stage drama actors are able to see audiences, build a rapport with them, and have the ability to react immediately if something goes wrong. Yet, hidden behind a 1.75 metre screen, puppeteers can have an impact on audiences only through their technique and voice. Intuition, a sixth sense is key. Invisible to the kids watching, the wirepullers have to grab their attention at once and keep them enthralled until the end of a play. Besides plenty of skills, it requires a natural knack. Puppets have no soul they get gifted a soul by puppet masters, like a human being by God, thus becoming two halves of a single entity, Petrenko says.

Protecting Magic Land
Children enter a fairytale as soon as they see the theatre building an awesome castle decorated with towers and two grand clocks chiming every 15 minutes. It has its own grounds with a mini-park featuring the light-and-music Thumbelina fountain and other statues of funny characters. Petrenko says the castle was purpose-built to house the theatre in 2005. Previously, they performed in different places, including the House of Actors, the National Philharmonic and the Jewish Synagogue. Furthermore the Theatre is set on a hill where, according to legend, Andrew the Apostle used to wander. Petrenko is sure, He protects us.
Well, that may be so. Due to the EuroMaidan protests, the theatre cancelled all its plays in February. But it will reopen its doors in March with a renewed repertoire including the premier of the puppet play Little Straw Bull.
In puppet shows, good always conquers evil. Not unlike the events that transpired in the theatres own neighbourhood.

by Anna Azarova

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.


    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

    more...


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