A Russia theater and film director who faces a travel ban imposed by a Russian court has shocked co-workers in Hamburg, Germany, by unexpectedly turning up there for stage rehearsals.
Kirill Serebrennikov has been working at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater in recent days in order to direct rehearsals of a production of Anton Chekhov’s The Black Monk.
Serebrennikov has been under a strict travel ban for the last four years by courts in Russia who found him guilty on embezzlement charges. Critics say the case against him was politically motivated and meant to stifle other potential critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite the travel ban ordered by the Russian courts, Serebrennikov has continued to direct productions outside of Russia by using remote video conference technology.
Serebrennikov is hailed as a daring and innovative force on Russia’s modern art scene, putting him at odds with cultural conservatives there. He also has publicly criticized Russian government policies.
At his trial, he suggested the security forces and a “culture of loyalty” within Russia’s Culture Ministry were behind his prosecution.
According to a statement by Hamburg’s Thalia Theater, Serebrennikov arrived at Hamburg’s international airport on January 8.
The statement quoted Serebrennikov as saying upon arrival that he was “very, very happy and fortunate that Hamburg is the first European city” where he is allowed to work again after more than four years.
Thalia’s artistic director, Joachim Lux, said Serebrennikov’s return was “encouraging for the idea of freedom and an encouragement for art as well.”
Rehearsals for the international production began in Moscow on November 8 with Russian, German, American, Armenian, and Latvian actors.
Rehearsals have continued since January 4 in Hamburg, where a premiere of the production is scheduled for January 22.