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Russian theatre ‘bans Putin comedy’

A Russian theatre has banned an irreverent new play about the tandem of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that also features Arnold Schwarzenegger, its author said Monday.

The youth theatre in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don has pulled a reading of the play, “Prebiotics,” from a festival, local playwright Vladimir Golyshev, a former political analyst, told AFP.

“As I understand it, the people making the decision had simply not read my play. And when the media started talking about the forthcoming reading, they read it and were horrified,” Golyshev said.

The theatre’s acting director, Alexander Bliznyuk, said earlier on Monday that he pulled the play for ideological reasons, since it insulted the country’s leadership and was also of low quality.

“As a citizen of my country, I consider it impossible to mock the country’s leaders and especially when there is a low artistic level,” Bliznyuk told Gzt.ru news website.

The play’s characters include shadowy Kremlin advisor Vladislav Surkov and the actor and former Californian governor Schwarzenegger, who once posed in a gym with Medvedev.

Golyshev blamed the ban on self-censorship, saying the play had “triggered an inner censor in a minor provincial bureaucrat.”

The play, published online, is based on the sacking of long-standing Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov by Medvedev in September, a step widely seen as an assertion of his independence from Putin.

Golyshev said he began writing the play as satire but came to feel affection for the characters. “By the time I finished the play I loved them all like children. And I love them now.”

He said he came to see the granite-faced prime minister as a Shakespearean figure, calling the play a “historic documentary, possibly in part a tragi-comedy.”

“Putin really becomes a Shakespearean hero. Everyone who has read my play will easily spot in my Putin the mad Prince Hamlet and Richard III and King Lear and Malvolio,” he said.

Putin’s presidential term saw a stifling of political satire, with a television show that featured his unflattering puppet swiftly disappearing from the air.

Golyshev worked at nationalist newspaper Zavtra before becoming a political analyst at a pro-Kremlin think tank, and now writes a popular blog. He has also written a play about the Tsarist monk Rasputin.