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Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy

The Power of Darkness, or If a Claw is Caught, the Bird is lost

(Власть тьмы, или Коготок увяз, всей птичке пропасть)

Director Maša Pelko



In his excellent and award-winning biography Escape from Paradise, Pavel Basinsky called count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910), a thinker, writer, politician and public figure, one of the most mythologised personalities in Russian literature. At the age of eighty-two, Tolstoy left his wife of forty-eight years, Sofia Andreyevna, who bore him thirteen children, renounced his life as a nobleman and spent his final seven days in the secluded Astapovo railway station, where he died of pneumonia.
Tolstoy is a master of realism and one of the world’s greatest novelists, best known for his novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. 
He wrote the play The Power of Darkness, or If a Claw is Caught, the Bird is Lost in 1886, during the period when he was engaged in writing philosophical and religious texts. In Russia, the play was banned until 1902. Nonetheless, it had been staged several times prior to the official lifting of the ban. Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislawski, a famous Russian theatre director, had wanted to stage it in 1895 and eventually did it in 1902, appearing in the role of the old servant Mitrich.
Nikita is a young and irresponsible farm labourer and a womanizer. Having seduced and abandoned a young, orphaned girl Marinka, he makes his master’s wife Anisya succumb to his charms. Helped by Nikita’s mother Matryona who would do anything for her son, Anisya murders her own husband Piotr to marry Nikita. When Nikita finds out about Anisya’s crime he feels nothing but disgust for her and seduces his stepdaughter Akoulina. When she gets pregnant and gives birth, Anisya coerces Nikita to commit a new criminal act. 
The Power of Darkness is a disturbing depiction of poverty and lack of education in Russian peasantry and a gripping portrayal of Russian society of the 1890s. The play examines the power of evil in the life of an individual, enquiring how evil, committed by one person, grows and affects the lives of many. The tragic life of peasants is not the result of inherited evil, but of »the power of darkness« permeating their lives from birth to death.

The play brings to the fore the question of evil in the life of the individual.

Translator Tatjana Stanič
Director Maša Pelko
Dramaturgs Tatjana Doma, Rok Andres
Set designer Dorian Šilec Petek
Costume designer Tina Bonča 
Composer Mateja Starič
Stage movement Klemen Janežič
Lighting designer Andrej Hajdinjak
Language consultant Živa Čebulj
Speech and cultural context consultant Tatjana Stanič
Drummer Vid Drašler

Peter, a well-to-do peasant Andrej Murenc
Anisya, his wife Lučka Počkaj
Akoulina, Peter's daughter by his first marriage Eva Stražar
Anyoutka, his daughter by his second marriage Mina Švajger as guest
Nikita, their labourer Lovro Zafred
Akim, Nikíta's father Aljoša Koltak
Matryona, his wife Barbara Medvešček
Marina, an orphan girl Maša Grošelj
Mitritch, a labourer Urban Kuntarič

Preview 9 December 2022
Opening night 13 January 2023
Performance duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes. One interval.

We would like to thank Radio Slovenia for their technical support and help with the recording.

Stage manager Zvezdana Štrakl • Prompter Breda Dekleva • Lighting masters Uroš Gorjanc, Gregor Počivalšek • Sound master Mitja Švener • Property master Manja Vadla •  Front-of-house Simon Koštric • Make-up artists Marjana Sumrak, Andreja Veselak Pavlič • Wardrobe masters Mojca Panič, Suzana Pučnik • Tailor Anita Kragelj • Seamstress Ivica Vodovnik • Head of construction Gregor Prah • Technical manager Aleksandra Štern • Assistant technical manager Rajnhold Jelen 


  • Lučka Počkaj, Andrej Murenc

  • Lukča Počkaj, Lovro Zafred

  • Maša Grošelj, Nika Vidic, Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj, Eva Stražar

  • Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj

  • Aljoša Koltak, Andrej Murenc, Barbara Medvešček, Lučka Počkaj

  • Andrej Murenc, Maša Grošelj

  • Aljoša Koltak, Lovro Zafred, Eva Stražar, Lučka Počkaj, Andrej Murenc, Barbara Medvešček, Nika Vidic

  • Barbara Medvešček, Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj, Maša Grošelj

  • Lovro Zafred, Maša Grošelj

  • Lovro Zafred, Aljoša Koltak, Maša Grošelj

  • Aljoša Koltak, Nika Vidic, Maša Grošelj

  • Andrej Murenc, Eva Stražar, Aljoša Koltak, Lovro Zafred, Barbara Medvešček, Nika Vidic, Lučka Počkaj

  • Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj, Barbara Medvešček

  • Maša Grošelj, Aljoša Koltak

  • Andrej Murenc, Lučka Počkaj

  • Aljoša Koltak, Andrej Murenc, Eva Stražar, Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj, Barbara Medvešček, Nika Vidic

  • Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj

  • Andrej Murenc, Eva Stražar

  • Lučka Počkaj, Lovro Zafred

  • Aljoša Koltak, Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj, Barbara Medvešček

  • Lučka Počkaj, Andrej Murenc, Lovro Zafred

  • Aljoša Koltak, Urban Kuntarič, Barbara Medvešček, Lovro Zafred

  • Urban Kuntarič, Lučka Počkaj, Aljoša Koltak

  • Lučka Počkaj, Urban Kuntarič, Eva Stražar, Lovro Zafred

  • Eva Stražar, Lovro Zafred

  • Lučka Počkaj, Lovro Zafred

  • Barbara Medvešček, Aljoša Koltak, Lučka Počkaj, Eva Stražar, Lovro Zafred, Nika Vidic

  • Barbara Medvešček, Urban Kuntarič, Eva Stražar, Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj

  • Nika Vidic, Aljoša Koltak, Lovro Zafred

  • Eva Stražar

  • U. Kuntarič, A. Koltak, B. Medvešček, N. Vidic, E. Stražar, L. Zafred, L. Počkaj, M. Grošelj

  • Eva Stražar, Maša Grošelj, Lovro Zafred, Lučka Počkaj, Urban Kuntarič

  • U. Kuntarič, B. Medvešček, L. Počkaj, M. Grošelj, E. Stražar, A. Koltak, L. Zafred, N. Vidic