Black Milk - During two years, the New Riga Theatre actors have collected the stories about the Latvian countryside. The actors have come to a conclusion that the true Latvian identity can be found not in the city, but in the countryside. Only in the countryside it is obvious, that Latvians are different from the others. These differences disappear in the cities. Another conclusion is that the authentic countryside is characterized by the rural and the agricultural way of life, which, in Latvia, definitely includes having a livestock. The final conclusion – when the last Latvian grandmother will hand over her last cow, the authentic Latvia will be a subject to the past. Therefore, the performance is also about the cows.
About the director of the play "Black Milk": Alvis Hermanis (b. 1965) - Studied acting at the Latvian State Conservatoire, and from 1977 has been the artistic director of the New Riga Theatre. Hermanis is interested in ordinary people and their stories, taken out of the context of everyday survival. However, his gaze is not warm and conciliatory; he perceives the world in all its cruelty and mercilessness. His exceptional sense of detail reveals the great human themes under a banal surface. He has won many prestigious awards. In 2007 he received a European Theatre Prize for New Theatre Realities, and a year later a Stanislavsky award in Moscow in the International Theatre category. In 2010 he gained a Golden Mask, the National Theatre Award of Russia, for "Shukshin's Stories" and a Nestroy Prize in Austria for best director. In 2012 Hermanis' production of Platonov at the Vienna Burgtheater was chosen at the Berlin Theatertreffen as one of the ten best productions of the season in a German-speaking country. A selection of his recent productions includes: Ivan Goncharov, "Oblomov" (Schauspiel Köln, 2011), Anton Chekhov: "Platonov" (Vienna Burgtheater, 2011), Arthur Schnitzler: "The Undiscovered Country" (Vienna Burgtheater, 2011), Maxim Gorki: "Vassa" (Münchner Kammerspiele, 2012), Bernd Alois Zimmermann: "The Soldiers" (Opera, Salzburger Festspiele, 2012), Isaac Bashevis Singer: "The Secrets of Kabbala" (New Riga Theatre, 2013), Maxim Gorki: "Summerfolk" (Schaubühne Berlin, 2012), Henrik Ibsen: "An Enemy of the People" (New Riga Theatre, 2013).
The world created by Alvis Hermanis is rich and multifarious. One can find the confrontation of masculine and feminine radix and the complexity of relation between a director and his actors there. The actresses in their flowery pattern dresses and high-heeled shoes transform into the country women or cows [..] – and back into the actress again, submitting unwillingly the director’s power. The only male actor in this performance, Vilis Daudziņš gets into the role of an irresistibly charming bull named Mikiņš, a peasant, the chief of a slaughterhouse, and, of course, a director – oppressor and the creator. Valda Čakare, Diena
The extremely impressive moments are those where the borderline between who is the animal and who its master becomes elusory. Where the cow can tell her mistress’ story better than the mistress herself. Where the cow in a Latgalian courtyard is sitting happily on the bench with its master and mistress [..]. Where the cows with the sparkling stars in the tips of their bugles are watching the Milky Way. Or, where the mistress enounces the milk incantation. These are the moments where the magical miracle of theatre is happening on the stage, the miracle we want to find in any performance. Linda Ģībiete, Latvijas Avīze Čím Černé mléko překvapuje: z velice omezeného lokálního kontextu (Lotyši a lotyšský venkov) vzejde téměř globální hymnus na něco unikavého, naprosto zbytného a o to krásnějšího. Dmitrijs Petrenko, Diena Black Milk surprises with this: a very local context (Latvians and the Latvian countryside) sounds like a global hymn to something elapsing, absolutely unnecessary and that is why even more beautiful.
Dmitrijs Petrenko, Diena