Semianyki Express

Around the world in 80 days? No, in ten years. Semianyki is a version of Jules Verne’ journey taken to the extreme. This group of clowns revolutionized the norms of the genre with ‘The Family”, revealing the talents of Marina, Olga, Elena, Yulia, Sasha and Kasyan, the troop of Teatr Semianyki, to the public of the entire world, from New Caledonia to the Antarctic while passing through all the capitals of Europe, Asia and America. What to do after such a success? Semianyki found themselves in the same position as Michael Jackson after his masterpiece, “Thriller”. Victim of a success so monstrous, it risks becoming carnivorous.

The easy solution would have been to make a sequel of the same style; “The Family 2: The Return”, or something similar. To do that would be to underestimate this group originating from Saint-Petersburg, who have made it their mission to fight against conformity. “We took off our costumes from The Family, hopped on the train and left”, tells Elena Sadkova. “It is very frightening to change so radically”, explains with honesty this ingenious young artist, a ball of energy who wears a carrot-colored wig and surpasses expectations with her character in this new show, “Semianyki Express”. It is a train that runs full speed ahead, a poetic shock where the bursts of laughter follow moments of deep emotion.

In the Express train of this insane troop, nothing works as it should. The opera singer gets carried away in a rain of confettis, the waitresses shake their bottles of champagne and the two old stars of silent cinema (a female version of the two grumpy old men of The Muppet Show) compete in grimaces in front of their beloved audience. Poetry appears through a simple gesture, a movement of the hand, or a disturbing mime sequence. The six clowns lead this Trans-Siberian train of emotions at full speed, without dialogues, using as fuel the universal language of the body, the artisanal decorations and lots of love.

The busty Olga Eliseeva (“the erotic symbol of any normally constituted man”, she says with her usual candor) synthesizes the theme behind this fantastic voyage: “Being on the road is like life, anything can happen. We had several ideas after “The Family”. We chose a topic that everyone can relate to, the voyage. In this train, there is the restaurant car, forgotten by many whereas in Russia, it still exists”.

Alexandre Gusarov, the “train employee”, asserts the difference of this railway cruise with the previous show and assumes it fully. “To create another show is not only a risk, it’s also the desire to do something else after ten years. A show is never finished, it is always a “work in progress”. Nobody knows it but the first time that we showed “the Family”, it was like day and night. It was completely different from what it later became”. Olga: “Semianyki Express” is a living organism. The more this organism feeds on the reactions of the audience, the more momentum it has. It is a new-born baby that will grow to be strong. For the moment, we breast-feed the child, we will see how it will grow and what it will become”.

Like the definition of the cinema given a long time ago by François Truffaut, “Semianyki Express” is “a train which rushes into the night”, a powerful work, original, designed to last, evolve, and incite people to dream. “This Train Is Bound For Glory”, sang Woody Guthrie. With Semianyki, glory is not the end of the line, rather another step in their quest for the ultimate clown adventure. So take a seat. “Semianyki Express” is a trip.

Olivier Cachin