“Tragedy gives poetry and depth to the comedy.” | The Pushkinettes talk clowning their way through Tolstoy in Anna KareniNa Na Na at Vault Festival

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival, Anna KareniNa Na Na.

Our show is a ludicrous and extremely silly take on the masterpiece by Leo Tolstoy. A tale of love, death and desire at the heart and toe of Imperial Russia – told by three idiots (Julia Masli, Tatiana Collet-Apraxine and Julie Nesher). This life-affirming tribute to a fictional woman, Anna Karenina, merges clowning, dance and live music. We hope to make you laugh until it hurts, so you get abs. It’s like going to the gym but very cultured! 

How did The Pushkinettes first come about?

We first met in a clown/comedy workshop on a farm in Norway. We discovered we were inspired by epic Russian classical theatre but were complete idiots at heart. We have a common Russian heritage, hailing from France, Israel and Estonia. Tatiana is Alexander Pushkin’s (Russia’s epic poet) great great great granddaughter. Pushkin is Julia’s greatest love and Julie doesn’t really care. Hence, ‘The Pushkinettes’.

What inspired you to write a comedy show based on Tolstoy’s novel?

We love the book with all our hearts. The comedy came from us genuinely trying to make the most beautiful and epic show in the world. We discovered the comedy in rehearsals, with our director Dan Lees, by fully committing to the story and the characters in our own way without ever holding back. It turned out to be very stupid, heartfelt and hopefully beautiful. 

How faithful is your interpretation to the original book?

Not at all. Once we started with the process, we put the book aside and made this show our own. We are complete idiots trying to tell an epic 800 pages novel in an hour, so we are bound to fail.

How did you incorporate clowning and dance into such a solemn story?

We are inspired by the thin line between tragedy and comedy in many classic Russian literary works. We feel tragedy gives poetry and depth to the comedy. It is exciting for us and somehow cathartic to make the tragic also extremely funny. It feels like a celebration of life to dance and laugh with death. We are all going to die and we all need to laugh about it together. Does this answer your question? Come and see the show to find out.

What do you hope people take away from your show?

We hope that people take away a bit of joy, of laughter, that because we have been such fools in front of them, they are encouraged to be a bit more silly and playful in their own lives. And we do hope the show somehow moves them too, as we genuinely tried to create something stupid, funny and beautiful.

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival? 

Legs (subtle self promotion there), and Bureau de Strange by the brilliant Establishment (our director Dan Lees is in it and is amazing).

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?

Have mildly delusional blind faith in yourself, don’t try to fit in, and trust that there is room for your uniqueness in the world. Oh and listen to your audience, when they are laughing and when they’re not, they are usually right.

The Pushkinettes are performing Anna KareniNa Na Na on 5th and 6th February.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Vault Festival here.

To keep up with other things The Pushkinettes have going on, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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