It is no coincidence that the capital's theatrical season kicks off just as the weather begins to get colder. In fact the wealth of entertainment available across the city can be seen as one of the positive side effects of a brutal climate. Many people visit the cluster of theatres around the Bolshoi or the Hermitage Gardens, but this walk explores some less well known theatrical venues. You can also visit the houses where actors and playwrights have lived as well as spotting many well known sights on a journey across town. The face of the beautiful Soviet actress, Lyubov Orlova, stares out from the corner of the MacCafe on Bolshaya Bronnaya Ulitsa. At the other end of this lovely stretch of boulevard, the profile of the greatest Maly Theatre actress, Maria Yermo lova, adorns her former house, which is now a museum. This lovely pink and yellow structure, preserving nineteenth century furniture and design, is worth a detour or a return trip. Otherwise, cross over from McDonald's into the park in the centre of Tverskaya Boulevard. Turn right along it and then left when you reach the Pushkin Theatre, just before the statue of the love and nature poet, Sergei Yesenin. The massive cube of red brick ahead is the Gorky MKhAT (Mos cow Academic Art Theatre), which split from the Chekhov Mkhat down the hill in October 1987.
Walk along the side of the Gorky Theatre and turn right into picturesque Leontevsky Pereulok, lined with interesting buildings. The famous actor-director and exponent of "method acting," Stanislavsky, lived in the house [at number 6] which is now a musem. Opposite is the Matryoshka museum and the ITAR-TASS agency building, whose windows carry the latest news photos. Turn left along Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa. You pass the net-shrouded Helikon Opera, the Mayakovsky Theatre (with the excellent Mayak restaurant up stairs) and the famous Moscow Con servatory with a statue of Chaikovsky sitting outside. The Mayakovsky Theatre was founded 86 years ago this month, one of the first to be opened under Soviet rule, in this neo-Russian building originally designed by the architect Schektel in the 1880s.
Bryusov Pereulok, opposite the conservatory was home to numerous actors and musicians; the experimental director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, lived at the far end. Continuing along Bolshaya Nikit skaya, you reach the Zoological Museum, blue and white with a lively facade, covered in stucco-work squirrels and monkeys. Go under the perekhod into the Alexand rovsky Gardens, exiting by the equestrian fountains, and turn right under the arch of the Kutafaya Bridge. Looking up to the left you can now see the glass and marble facade of the State Kremlin Palace above the red brick wall. At the end of the gardens, cross over onto the flag-lined bridge.
This busy road bridge is not the most peaceful way to cross the Moscow River, but it does offer great views in all directions: to the left the walls and towers of the Kremlin, and to the right the palatial eighteenth century Pashkov House, the new gold-domed Christ the Saviour Cathed ral and the statue of Peter the Great. The grey building of the Estrada Theatre (4), next to the bridge, is the infamous "House on the Embankment," where many of its inhabitants had a habit of disappearing during Stalin's purges. At the end of the bridge, cross diagonally left into the gardens and by the statue of the painter Repin in front of the Luzhkov Bridge, upon where couples fix padlocks symbolic of their love onto metal trees.
Lavrushinsky Pereulok, leading straight ahead, passes the Tretyakov Gallery whose cafe provides a nice mid-way stopping point. There is a three-course (plus-drink) 180 ruble business lunch on weekdays. Turn left before the gold-frame fountain into Ordinsky Tupik and then Klimen tovsky Pereulok and then right past Tretyakovskaya Metro Station into Ulitsa Malaya Ordinka. Number 9 is the grey weather-board house where the playwright Ostrovsky was born.
Author of 47 plays that are still regularly acted across the city, Ostrovsky is Moscow's Shakespeare. He is closely associted with the Mali Theatre and the upper floor of this lovely house museum is dedicated to the theatre and sets and costumes for his plays throughout the ages. The ground floor reconstructs rooms circa 1823 when the playwright was born. From a distance this area, known as Zamos kvarechye ("across the Moscow River"), is composed of baroque churches and smoking factory chimneys, so this wooden house in a garden full of late summer flowers is a hidden oasis. This month sees a season of his plays performed in the house itself.
The smell of chocolate in the air beyond Ostrovsky's house is ex plained when you reach the Rotfront factory. A shop next door sells candies by the kilo, including the ‘Zamoskvarechye' brand with a wrapper showing the Tretyakov Gallery and famous local churches. Further along Malaya Ordinka are the Glas Religious Theatre in a nineteenth century mansion and the experimental Theatre Luny in an art nouveau appartment block. The name, of course, means "Theatre of the Moon", but the radical avant-garde interpretations might lead to a different translation. The all-male Romeo and Juliet currently in their repertoire, for instance, ends with the protagonists writhing on the flooded stage to the strains of unchained melody.
Follow the road round to the left, cross over and go on along the 2nd Monetchikovsky Pereulok. Wiggle right and then left onto the 5th, leading to a domed brick church and take the tarmac lane straight on across the road beyond the church which comes out on Ulitsa Bakh rushina opposite the Five Star Cinema in a blue and white neoclassical palace. The cinema is another good place for refreshments before turning right (if you are facing the cinema) towards the Theatre Museum.
The building and beautifully painted hallway are highlights of this museum. There are plenty of pictures and artefacts charting three centuries of Russian theatrical history, but it lacks the intimacy of the Ostrovsky branch. Entry is 100 rubles. Finally, continue towards the main road and turn right to reach Paveletskaya Metro Station.
Family friendly features
- Wooden playgrounds on boulevard ring
- Museum of folk art and matryoshkas opposite Stanislavsky's house
- Ostrovsky's house has wonderful charm, as well as a garden
- Five Star Cinema has kids' area