Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Reading and Discussion of the Play “Crime” by its Author Esther Bol



Thursday 9 November, 4:10 pm CET

Esther Bol’s [formerly Asya Voloshina’s] play Crime is composed of the protagonist’s documentary-based correspondence from the outbreak of the war and the news feeds – mainly Ukrainian Telegram feeds – that she reads. She is safe, or almost safe, but totally immersed in the war through the screen of her phone. She is Russian and her lover is Ukrainian, and he has volunteered for the front, he is an Ukrainian soldier. He is captured at the very beginning of the war while she is under arrest for an anti-war rally. No one knows anything about his fate, and she writes him letters to the void. This war is absolutely open to scrutiny like no war before. And all the more monstrous: Russians can see on their phones what their country is doing in Ukraine. But most prefer to close their eyes and listen to the propagandists. (And some do not close their eyes and enjoy what they see.) All this is a special dimension of documentary, and the author tries to overcome the numbness of dumbness through it.
The play has been translated into French, English, Czech, staged in theatres in Prague and Budva (as well as presented in the format of a reading at the festival “Echo Lubimovka” in Tel Aviv and Belgrade; and in the format of an author’s reading in Berlin and Yerevan).

Esther Bol lived in St. Petersburg until the end of February 2022. Immediately after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, she left Russia for good. Graduated with a master’s degree from the Russian State Institute of Stage Arts. About 50 productions based on the texts have been staged in Russia, including at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre, Alexandrinsky Theatre, Bolshoy Drama Theater, and Taganka Theatre (most theatres removed the name from the playbills after making public their position on the full-scale invasion), as well as in Poland, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Moldova, Israel, and Uruguay. Most Russian productions are currently banned. The plays have been translated into French, English, Polish, Spanish, Lithuanian, Czech, Romanian, and Hebrew; they have been published in almanacs and magazines, and in the author’s collection The Choir Perishes.