Russia theatre legend quits in fury after 50 years

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Russia's most celebrated living director has quit his theatre in a fury after almost a half century as its chief following a dispute with the actors over pay.

Yuri Lyubimov, 93, who founded Moscow's Taganka Theatre in 1964, accused his actors of only being interested in money after a row on tour in the Czech Republic and said he had no intention of working with them any more.

"I confirm I have taken my final decision -- to leave the theatre," the director declared to the RIA Novosti news agency late on Saturday.

"I have no intention of working with this troupe. Let them be led by their trade union. I've had enough of this disgrace, these humiliations, this lack of desire to work, this desire just for money."

The scandal erupted before a performance of Brecht's classic morality play "The Good Person of Szechwan" when the actors refused to rehearse unless they were paid first.

His wife Katalin told RIA Novosti that to keep the show going Lyubimov paid the actors out of his own pocket but then vowed never to work with them again.

Yuri Lyubimov commented: "Clearly this is a loss of prestige for the country, for Russian theatre. But, it seems, the actors don't give a damn."

Lyubimov was one of the giants of Soviet theatre, winning fame not only in Russia but also abroad for hugely visual and experimental spectacles that transcended language.

He dazzled the Soviet public with his productions until 1984 when he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship after giving an interview to the Times newspaper while putting on a play in London.

But with the onset of perestroika, Lyubimov returned to Moscow in triumph in 1988 and retained his near mythical status after the collapse of the Soviet Union, still putting on new productions in his nineties.

He was particularly known for his work with the actor Vladimir Vysotsky who won immense fame for songs containing unusually sharp social commentary and died aged just 42 in 1980 in during the Moscow Olympics.

© 2011 AFP

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