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Cambridge Brings Work of Mykola Kulish to Life


Mykola Kulish’s play Maklena Grasa is the story of a thirteen year-old girl who dreams of life in the Soviet Union and struggles to distinguish reality from fantasy. In September 1933, under the direction of Les Kurbas, it was performed at gunpoint before a crowd of GPU agents, the Repertoire Committee and Politburo of Soviet Ukraine. The play was subsequently banned; Kulish was later declared a ‘bourgeois-nationalist' playwright and, like Kurbas, executed by the Soviet regime in 1937.

In 2017, Maria Montague, the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club and Cambridge Ukrainian Studies are bringing the play to life in its first-ever English-language production.

It is the second theatrical collaboration between Cambridge Ukrainian Studies and Montague, who is an alumna of the Ukrainian Studies undergraduate programme and a current MPhil candidate at Cambridge researching Kurbas's practice of peretvorennia or 'transformation'. Her verbatim play on the war in Donbas -- The Summer Before Everything, co-authored with Cambridge's Bohdan Tokarskyi -- premiered at the Junction in Cambridge and toured the United Kingdom in 2016.

'I am so excited to be working with Cambridge Ukrainian Studies to bring the first English translation of Maklena to the stage', said Montague. She credits Marta Jenkala, Cambridge's Lector in Ukrainian, for her steadfast support in navigating the complexities of the Ukrainian text.

Montague's production of Maklena begins with a sneak preview on 11 June in Cambridge, where actors will perform a rehearsed reading of the play at the ADC Theatre. It will then travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a run in the summer. 'All the profits from the rehearsed reading in Cambridge will go toward helping our company with living costs at the Fringe', noted Montague.

'Since its launch in 2008, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies has sought to advance knowledge of Ukraine through innovative teaching, research and public outreach', said Dr Rory Finnin, Director of the Cambridge Ukrainian Studies programme and Head of the Department of Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge. 'Maria Montague's production of Maklena is a striking example of what can happen when talented and engaged undergraduates in Ukrainian Studies pursue their academic interest in Ukraine at postgraduate level and channel it into new directions. Now English-language audiences will encounter the work of Mykola Kulish, Ukraine's greatest twentieth-century playwright, from a fresh perspective. We cannot wait to see what happens next.'

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