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A book about famous clowns

Every good book is interesting in its own way. Its originality is given by the author: his talent, life experience, knowledge of the subject, love for it.
A monograph about the famous clowns Yuri Nikulin and Mikhail Shuidin was written by S. Makarov. After graduating from circus school, he was a clown, and then a comedian-illusionist. So I learned circus art not only from the rows of the amphitheater, but also by performing in the arena.

While working in the circus, Makarov graduated from the Department of theater studies of the state Institute of theater arts named after A.V. Lunacharsky, then a full-time postgraduate course at the Institute of art history, defended his dissertation on the problems of clowning and received a PhD in art history. Now he works as the Director of the same variety and circus school, which he once graduated from.

We often talk in our magazine about the fundamentally new essence of the Soviet circus, but isn’t the fact that a circus artist becomes a scientist while continuing to work in the circus sphere one of the obvious proofs of this?! As well as the fact that there is a new science — circus science, it has active candidates of science: I. Novodvorskaya, E. Ziskind, M. Nemchinsky, N. Rumyantseva and the same Makarov. Theater experts, philosophers working in the field of aesthetics, ethnographers, folklorists, and journalists constantly address the topic of the circus.

Until relatively recently, only one person in our country — 3. Troitsky taught a course on the history of the circus, but now, in addition to Moscow, special educational institutions have been opened that produce circus artists in Kiev and Tbilisi. Circus Directors are trained in GITIS. Courses run sporadically under the Directorate for the preparation of new numbers and attractions and the Institute for advanced training of senior employees of the Ministry of culture of the USSR. And everywhere you need circus experts! And the program on the history of the world circus was prepared by the same Makarov, with special attention paid to the countries of the socialist Commonwealth.

But let’s go back to the book we started talking about. One of its peculiarities is that the author in a large digression refers to the history of the formation of clowning and, above all, to the masks of clowns, to the appearance and development of those farcical techniques on the basis of which the clown antrees, now defined as classic, were approved. It tells about the performances that took place in Ancient Rome, in the squares of cities of the late middle ages, describes carnivals, recalls the Italian Comedy of masks and Russian folk artists — buffoons.

This is the first time that the topic is being developed in such detail, and it is certainly very interesting to find out how clowning, which has become so popular in the circus, appeared, was approved and developed.

Addressing directly to the artists to whom the book is dedicated, Makarov tells how they found their vocation. Both served in the Soviet Army during the war. One of them-Nikulin, after being demobilized, tried to enter various theatrical educational institutions, until he stopped at the clowning Studio at the Moscow circus. He is a pupil Of M. Mestechkin and A. Fedorovich.

Another-shuidin started as a locksmith, then before the war he studied at the school of circus art, was drafted into the Army, and after being demobilized, worked as a clown in the collective farm branch of the Kalinin circus. But he was not satisfied with his position and entered the same clowning Studio at the Moscow circus.

They both belong to a group led by pencil, and both consider Him their teacher. And when the young artists left the group, they began to perform comic scenes, as a result, they became so-called covert clowns, performing in the arena for an entire evening. The book tells about many famous clowns: “Scene on a horse”, “Thorns and roses”, “Cockroaches”, “Telemans”, “Bows” and others. It is a pity that the pantomime “Carnival in Cuba” is not described in detail, both artists played leading roles in it, and Nikulin also acted as a co-author of the script.

But in General, a fairly detailed description of how and with what the artists performed, and even those who were not lucky enough to see them at the arena, after reading the book, can get an idea of their work.

However, in General, highly appreciating the book, I can not but Express two complaints. First-it is a pity that little is said about Nikulin-the film artist. But the work in the cinema was of fundamental importance to him. The roles were played interesting, and Kuzma Kuzmich Iordanov from the movie “When the trees were big” I want to note especially. And, of course, it is essential that the circus performer-the clown-appeared on the screen not in a comic or stunt role, but played psychological and dramatic roles, rising to tragedy. The history of world cinema has never known such a thing. Can say, and Charlie Chaplin? But as soon as he achieved fame, he left the variety theater, and Nikulin, becoming a star on the screen, continued to perform nightly in the arena.

And second — it would be good with certainty to say that Nikulin and Shuydin genuine innovators. In clowning, they combined psychological truth with buffoonery, domestic persuasiveness with grotesque, and this allowed them to solve realistic scenes with circus means. And in these scenes, such a purely concrete life character, which is played by Tatyana Nikulina, enters completely organically. And, of course, it would be important to compare the activities of artists with what is happening now in other arts, especially in the theater and cinema, then much of their work would be even clearer and more interesting.

However, all this is just good wishes addressed to the author, who, as it seems, is not going to be limited to this good book, but still will write, I want to believe it, the history of Soviet, and maybe world clowning. And then our advice will be useful to him.

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