The Ukrainian writer Bohdan Pankruchin and the Russian director and author Kirill Serebrennikow premiered "Der Wij", inspired by the story of the same name by Nikolai Gogol, on Saturday evening in the studio stage of Hamburg's Thalia Theater.
The author duo uses the classic of fantastic literature as a framework to relentlessly tell about the reality of the war, based on real experiences and texts from the current Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
A Russian assigned to kill is being held captive in a basement in Ukraine. There, a grandfather and his three grandchildren are considering what to do with him. Serebrennikow and his international team of German, Ukrainian and Russian actors act out the horrors of torture, humiliation, fear of death and forced killing in an oppressive manner.
Here, unlike Gogol, a philosophy student does not read the death prayers to a sick girl, here the soldier is encouraged to bring the deceased daughter of the house back to life with the help of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". The eponymous "Wij", an earth spirit whose gaze leads to immediate death, becomes a haunting metaphor of annihilation - and the evening a clear statement against war.
Around 20 demonstrators protested in front of the theater against the premiere, in which they saw Russian propaganda.