Dima Sol has just brilliantly played Sharikov in Victor Sobchak’s production of "The Heart of a Dog" by Art-Vic Theatre. He first appeared on the London stage a year ago in one of the most difficult roles in the world’s repertoire - that of Treplev in "The Seagull" staged by the same director. I well remember my first impression of the young actor: I could sense his good nature and at the same time I admired the selfless manner in which he expressed emotions of his character. These impressions strengthened after I saw him later in the year in other Sobchak’s productions. As well as Treplev, he has played "Prince Myshkin" in Dostoevsky’s "The Idiot", The Fool in Shakespeare's "King Lear", Plyakov in Bulgakov’s "Morphine", several roles in Nabokov’s "Lolita" and in the play "A Wife For Sale" based on farces by Chekhov; and now Sharikov.
Natalia Kolosova: Congratulations on your first night! What are your impressions of the performance?
Dim Sol: We had many obstacles on the way to putting on the play. One person left and another was very worried that he would be unable to cope with the role, but at the end we finally all got a grip on ourselves and so far all that I have heard about the performance has been positive.
NK: What has been the most difficult challenge of the role of Sharikov for you?
DS: The most difficult challenge was that as a person I am quite unlike Sharikov. The main barrier has been the task of removing my true self from the character. How it has worked out must be decided by the audience, who know me not only as an actor on stage but also as a person.
NK: What made you decide to become an actor?
DS: I don’t think I would have been brave enough to decide to be an actor, if I had not played in the theatre when I was at school. I was born in Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine but grew up in Germany. People from the National Theatre in Hanover came to our school. They had a project about how a boy becomes a man - not in a sexual sense, but how he matures, how his principles and moral values change - and about his relationship with his father. I worked with these people for six months, spending ten hours a day at the theatre. It was fascinating. Later on I studied at the economics institute and at the same time worked for a very good firm with an excellent salary. But after two years there I realised that this was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to enjoy my work, to look beyond the bounds of my horizon and to live a life out of the ordinary. I wandered what to do. I had two favourite things: theatre and dance, I used to do breakdance and electric boogie waves. I doubted that I would be able to do break dance when I am forty, so I decided to be an actor, since I would be able to utilise all my talents. And then I thought to myself, “Why should I restrict myself to German?” I wanted to act everywhere in the world. So I have been here in England for three years now.
NK: Where did you study acting?
DS: In two places. When I first arrived here I went to the Faculty of Drama and Performance at Southbank University. Two months ago I graduated as one of the best students and obtained my baccalaureate diploma. I had the choice of doing a diploma production either in a group or on my own. I decided to do it on my own and chose Gogol’s "Diary of a Madman" in English. A lot of people liked it and even people I didn’t know came up to me and asked for my business card.
A year ago I joined Art-Vic and started to rehearse Chekhov’s "The Seagull" with them. The funny thing is that I rehearsed that play during my first year at university and we even performed it, but I learned more about it after just two hours of rehearsal with Victor Sobchak than after a whole term at university.
NK: What do you think about your various roles?
DS: I shouldn’t complain. Ninety percent of actors anywhere in the world would not perform in their whole lives the roles which I have played in just one year with Victor. We are now planning to stage "Hamlet". There are directors who refuse to stage that play until they find an actor who is ready to be Hamlet. With Victor it’s quite the opposite. He says that he will make and nurture such an actor. I hope that I will have such a good relationship with a couple of other directors during my career as I have with Victor. If I am worried about something I can always write to him and he will reply, always ready to help. Working with him is fascinating. He helps you to develop not only as an actor but as a person as well and to raise your intellectual level. It often happens during our conversations that I hear many names and events from the history of theatre or its terminology for the very first time, but this is quite natural for him. Furthermore, we do a lot of work with Russian classics, and his experience also makes him unique. I don’t know the exact number, but he has staged about four hundred productions.
NK: Why do you think Victor has staged productions with you in the lead?
DS: In actual fact he very often criticises me. We get together and he says, “Well done everyone, except one of you”. That’s how he jokes. He very much likes to work with young people and believes that they want to develop, grow and he helps them to achieve this. I was so inexperienced when I came to the company that he wanted me to improve. I myself wanted to do better and to learn more and he sensed this. And when he sees that you are giving your all he wants to help you even more. Victor has worked for the greater part of his life in the UK, he has worked with many actors and it very often happens that people who join Art-Vic are just ordinary people wanting to perform, but they leave as accomplished actors.
NK: I know that Sobchak rehearses very quickly. How does that influence you?
DS: It puts me under a lot of pressure and we also rehearse very difficult plays: we have done "Morphine", "The Seagull", "King Lear" and "The Idiot". I am 24, but I played Prince Myshkin, who is 27 years old. We rehearsed for four and a half weeks and in that time I had to re-live the 27 years of Myshkin’s life. That was a very difficult task. It meant that you rehearse at the theatre and carry on rehearsing even after getting home, with or without a mirror, you lock yourself in a room and rehearse.
NK: Have your colleagues taught you anything?
DS: Yes, definitely. Especially in "The Seagull", when I had just joined and worked with one actor who told me that he has performed for 25 years. I told him how impressive that was as I had not yet lived for 25 years. So, of course, there were things to learn. Elena Knight, who has worked and taught in the UK for many years, explained to me how to stand so that the audience could see me, how to project my voice and how to develop the logic of my character’s behaviour. Furthermore, I learnt that the way you treat your colleagues and the way you listen to them and react to them is equally important as your own acting. You can’t learn all this from books at home or from videos on youtube but only during the course of your work.
NK: Which of your roles you consider the most successful?
DS: Probably Polyakov in "Morphine". Although a lot of people said that as The Fool in "King Lear" I was the best they had ever seen me on stage. It was very interesting to observe people when they were leaving after "Morphine". They were so shattered, the production had really affected them and they were very emotional. Later on there were comments on Facebook: someone recalled something from the past, someone else wrote about his father, another person remembered what had happened to his friends.
NK: What helped you to develop as an actor?
DS: What really helps me to improve is when I am told off. To come to the rehearsal, to perform badly and then the director gets at me, I start getting angry and blame myself. I go home in an angry mood. When we were rehearsing "The Idiot" I asked myself, “Why am I doing this at all? I will complete this run, give it up and go back to Germany”. I then calmed down and told myself that I need to get a grip on myself and that I can do it. And then I started to perform differently, that’s how I made progress.
NK: Do you prefer to act in Russian or English?
DS: I don’t see any difference. I still have a Russian accent in English, but I am working hard on it, and when I speak people would never guess that I am from Ukraine or Russia. When we did "The Idiot" in English I found it much easier to remember the text than the Russian text of "Morphine". I am striving to act in English, of course.
NK: Who are your favourite colleagues?
DS: When we did "The Idiot" half of the cast was Russian and half English. There is one actor - Rob Antony, who played Rogozhin in "The Idiot", Kent in "King Lear" and Woland in "The Master and Margarita". I like it very much how, when we are working together, he goes off to one side, begins to reflect on why his character is acting in this way and discusses it with himself. He is a very clever actor and it is intriguing to work with him. If I do something inappropriate for my character, he says, “Just a moment, I think your character wouldn’t have done this.” He focuses on his colleagues as well as on himself.
NK: How do you see your future?
DS: I would like to take part in a sitcom. Getting home after "Morphine" I would just collapse and that was it. When you play comedy, though, you feel much better after a performance. Yes, you are physically exhausted but mentally you are not worn out as much as after playing tragic or dramatic roles. I also very much like Christian Bale, he is capable of so many transformations! His films are really interesting. I would like to perform such roles. Not silly ones. This is what I am aiming for.
Actress Elena Knight: I can recall my first impressions of Dima. I came to the first rehearsal of "The Seagull" in which I was playing Arkadina and, of course, I was very nervous as it is very important for me, who my partners on stage are. Victor Sobchak introduced me to my “son” Treplev - Dima Sol… After the rehearsal I flew back home on the wings of happiness and inspiration. I knew that we would do this well - and we did. Dima is a marvelous theatre partner, you feel easy and secure performing with him. He is an explorative, hard-working and very talented actor. He also possess a great soul. I once mentioned that I hadn’t eaten home-made pastries for ages. The next day I was absolutely amazed - yes! - Dima brought in some home-made pastries!!!
Director Victor Sobchak: I like the way Dima has changed, I feel that I am his tutor. He knows what a high mountain he has to climb each time: Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Bulgakov. During the course of my life I have worked with many talented actors, and they all had one thing in common: they knew how to listen and how to bring my ideas to life on stage. Dima listens to my comments during a rehearsal and the next day he comes with his interpretation. And he doesn’t moan when he is criticised, he stays strong, begins to think and keeps working. I have never staged The Heart of a Dog before, and there was true life in today’s performance, to a great extent because of Dima. I do not want to over-praise him, but he is the most talented young Russian-speaking actor in London at the moment. I am sure about it. Because he takes on roles from tragedy to farce and from melodrama to absurd, which could break many others. But he does it and in both languages.