In his dark comedy The War Has Not Yet Started, characters are bombarded by propaganda on TV and the constant threat of terror. The Russian playwright speaks about his hopes – and fears – for political change
If you want to understand modern Russia – or modern life in general – consider Mikhail Durnenkov’s The War Has Not Yet Started. Crackling with wit and anxiety, casual in how it portrays horror, the play evokes the same kind of dread I experience when I read Donald Trump’s tweets – whether they threaten war with North Korea or taunt the courts and the free press. It’s the same cold feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you ask yourself, “Who’s flying this plane?” and no obvious or comforting answer is forthcoming.
On the surface, the 12 parables that make up the play are distinctly Russian, focusing on everything from the angry debate over the value of street protests to the constant threat of terror attacks, from Russia’s undeclared war with Ukraine to the awful psychological effects of propaganda on state television. Yet Durnenkov’s characters are also universal in their shimmering frailties and their tendency to betray one another and, ultimately, themselves.
I still see a reserve of stability in the system. But maybe this stability is deceptive
In Durnenkov’s work, the exhaustion compresses people into pared-down, extreme versions of themselves