Teemu Paavolainen. Performing Communism, or, What if we Took Meyerhold’s Politics Seriously?
The Routledge Companion to Vsevolod Meyerhold.
eBook Published 9 November 2022
The essay addresses how different aspects of communism were performed in Meyerhold’s ‘revolutionary’ theatre. The main aims are to take the politics seriously, even if the man himself might have been somewhat tactical about it, and also to help today’s readers and practitioners situate Meyerhold in the longer lineage of Leftist thought (the essay draws heavily on David Graeber, specifically). To analyse the relevant aspects at play, the essay’s three central sections are entitled by three smaller C words. The first, on the theatrical ‘commons,’ runs through some main facets of Meyerhold’s ‘estrangement’ of what he would have called the ‘bourgeois’ tradition, specifically as pertains to character, acting, stage objects, and scenography, in an attempt to reinsert some politics to what have often been reduced to merely aesthetic commonplaces. The second section addresses the hopes and aspirations of the ‘comradely’ 1920s, not only in Meyerhold’s revolutionary theatre but also in the Communist avant-garde more generally, touching on Taylorism, Constructivism, slapstick comedy, and the imagination as the driving political ontology of the Left. The final section, on ‘command,’ revisits some standard anti-utopian arguments and the darker sides of the Soviet Union, reinstating, in conclusion, a communism of ‘commons’ and ‘comrades.’