Mirochnikov was born in Minsk, Belarus, and trained as an actor in Russia, where he enjoyed a successful career in theatre, film and television before moving to the West (initially Belgium) in the early 1990s “to become a man of the world and find my place within a larger world context.” As well as adjusting to a very different way of life, it was also virtually impossible to continue his acting career outside his home country. He remarks, “The Russian actor Michael Chekhov, who was one of the biggest stars of Moscow theatre, moved to America where he trained actors and wrote wonderful books about acting, but in his memoirs he wrote about how as soon as you cross the border of your country, you automatically lose your career. Having to start from scratch was quite shocking, especially as Slavic men are known for being proud!” A series of less than stimulating jobs came to an end when “I met someone in Belgium who was looking for someone to teach Stanislavski in the conservatoire. Suddenly, I felt I was doing what I was trained for and was grateful to my teachers for giving me the tools to survive.”
During Mirochnikov’s formative years in the Soviet Union, the theatre scene was “very rich and flamboyant. I was there when many of the great stars of Soviet theatre were still alive, people who had been trained by Stanislavski personally or his disciples. Although the variety of plays wasn’t as wide as it is now, there was a certain integrity and a wonderful classical discipline. There were also some quite rebellious companies who were allowed to exist by the state because they were producing great works of art. Getting a ticket to a big show was like getting a new car. Theatre has always been adored, even revered, in Russia. Actors might not make a lot of money, but they’re treated incredibly well. Now it’s very different, there’s a contract system and not as much funding from the state, but it’s a big event to go to the theatre; people wear their best clothes and you feel how electrifying it is in the auditorium as well as on stage.”
Mirochnikov has been based in Britain for the past seventeen years, where he has been the only Russian acting coach and director to consistently work at a top level for this period of time. As a London-based director, “You can open a certain number of doors in Russia, but, at the same time, the fact that you’re outside the Russian context makes things more difficult because you need to have a proven record of doing things there. To penetrate the Russian market, you need to be based there. I didn’t re-establish my career in Russia because I was busy establishing myself here. If principals of British drama schools weren’t so respectful towards Russian theatre, I would never have been employed here. We are on the same page when it comes to greatness, integrity and result.” The international influence is evident in Mirochnikov’s position as Artistic Director of Belka Productions (‘Belka’ is ‘Squirrel’ in Russian and was also the name of the first dog in space). He comments, “Our team is very international and that’s what makes it such a wonderful and at times explosive group.”
A Warsaw Melody plays at Arcola Theatre from March 28th – April 28th 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit the website.