ART AND CULTURE AS REVOLUTION
This is from Mayakovsky's Mystery-Bouffe written by him in 1918 and directed byMeyerhold in the same year to celebrate the flrst anniversary of the October Revolution.!Mayakovsky wrote a second version of the play, which he described as "A Heroic, Epicand Satiric Representation of Our Era", in 1921 in order to change its content, though notits form, according to the changes in the era represented. Since the early 1920s, theperiod of the New Economic Policy (1921-1924), are central to this paper, referencesbelow are to the version of 1921. Let us, however, keep in mind Mayakovsky's laconicwish that, in the future, "all persons performing, presenting, reading or publishingMystery-Bouffe should change the content, making it contemporary, immediate, up-tothe-minute" .2
Mystery-Bouffe is in six Acts, framed by a prologue and a concluding chorus whosefunction and effect are those of an epilogue. The prologue, while summarising the play'ssubject matter, mocks the textual and performance conventions of realist theatre, asallusions to Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Stanislavskian stage techniques make quiteplain. At the same time, it introduces, in the buoyant, comic vein of opera bouffe(hence, of course, Mayakovsky's title), the critical perspective taken on capitalism, imperialism and war - as well as on Russia's Provisional Government after the collapseof tsarist autocracy- by Mystery-Bouffe as a whole. The chorus/" epilogue" closing ActVI is a version of the Internationale invented by Mayakovsky for the play. It is sung bythe Unclean, alias workers and peasants, for the Commune, alias world socialism.