Comrade Lowdown - the 1984 Moscow Congress

Ian Chance, as Margaret Leask had done 9 years before from Berlin in the AYPAA newsletter, reported from on the ground at the 1984 Moscow Congress, leading the Lowdown article with the greeting to ASSITEJ Centres from the Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Like sport at the Olympics, art was a weapon of the Cold War and ASSITEJ had been formed in its shadow. The massive Soviet State-funded children’s theatres were meant to impress Western visitors such as Chance and they did, with ‘enthralling’ standards of acting and production, and such facilities as a futuristic two-thousand seat auditorium, indoor aviary and outdoor sculpture garden.

However, in putting themselves forward as a society that had achieved its social change in 1917 and was now a Utopian alternative to the capitalist West, the Soviet hosts encountered some healthy Australian scepticism. After accustoming himself to the dizzying standards of technical excellence, Chance noted the complete absence of theatre for social change. (Indeed, why would there be a need in a perfect society?) Moreover, in bringing ‘culture to the masses’ and ‘inculcating good taste’, Chance queried the choice of productions that ‘had the vague air of museum pieces’ and the Soviets entrenching ‘an oddly bourgeois art-form as the people’s theatre'.

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