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Mystery-Bouffe (Russian: Мистерия-Буфф; Misteriya-Buff) is a socialist dramatic play written by Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1918/1921. Mayakovsky stated in a preface to the 1921 edition that "in the future, all persons performing, presenting, reading or publishing Mystery-Bouffe should change the content, making it contemporary, immediate, up-to-the-minute."[1]

Written byVladimir Mayakovsky
  • The Clean
  • The Unclean
  • A Compromiser
  • An Intellectual
  • The Lady with the Hatboxes
  • Devils
  • Saints
  • Jehovah
  • Actors of the Promised Land
  • The Man of the Future
Date premieredNovember 18, 1918 (1918-11-18)
Place premieredTheatre of Musical Drama
Petrograd, Russia
Original languageRussian
SettingThe Entire Universe; The Ark; Hell; Paradise; Land of Chaos; The Promised Land


First versionEdit

The play was written for the anniversary of the 1917 revolution, and was accepted by the Central Bureau to be part of the festivities. The title is likely a reference to the opera buffa/opéra bouffe, comic opera genres popular at the time. This original version was directed and produced by Vsevolod Meyerhold, and the art was done by Kazimir Malevich. The premiere was in the Theatre of Musical Drama on November 7, 1918.

Mayakovsky himself played the role of the "simple man", as well as some bit roles including Methuselah and one of the demons. This version of the play lasted three seasons.

Second versionEdit

After two years, Mayakovsky reworked the text of his play. This second version premiered in the First Theatre of the RSFSR on May 1, 1921. A printed edition of the second version was released in June of that year. This version of the play lasted about 100 shows.

Later versionsEdit

Directed byDavid Cherkasskiy
Written byVladimir Mayakovsky (Play)
Robert Vikkers[2] (Script)
Music byG. Firtich
Kievnauchfilm studio[3]
Release date
Running time
60 min.

A 60-minute animated film adaptation of the play was made in 1969, directed by David Cherkasskiy. It was the first animated feature to be made in Ukraine. The Soviet government banned screenings outside of the Ukrainian SSR.[4] In 2015, the director of the film uploaded it to Youtube.

In 2007, after several decades of the play not being seen anywhere, the Moscow A.R.T.O. theatre put on an updated version of the play which was dubbed "Mystery-Bouffe. The Clean Variant", based on the texts of the first and second versions. It premiered in France on May 1, 2007.[5]


  1. Seven Pairs of the Clean:
V.V.Mayakovsky. Costume art for the roles of the Seven Pairs of the Clean
  1. 1) The Negus of Abyssinia
    2) An Indian Raja
    3) A Turkish Pasha
    4) A Russian Merchant (Speculator)
    5) A Chinese
    6) A Well-fed Persian
    7) Clemenceau
    8) A German
    9) A Russian Priest
    10) An Australian
    11) His Wife
    12) Lloyd George
    13) An American
    14) A Diplomat
V.V.Mayakovsky. Costume art for the roles of the Seven Pairs of the Unclean
  1. Seven Pairs of the Unclean:
    1) A Soldier of the Red Army
    2) A Lamplighter
    3) A Truckdriver
    4) A Miner
    5) A Carpenter
    6) A Farmhand
    7) A Servant (Female)
    8) A Blacksmith
    9) A Baker
    10) A Laundress
    11) A Seamstress
    12) A Locomotive Engineer
    13) An Eskimo Fisherman
    14) An Eskimo Hunter
  2. A Compromiser
  3. An Intellectual
  4. The Lady with the Hatboxes
  5. Devils:
    1) Beelzebub
    2) Master-of-ceremonies Devil
    3) First Messenger
    4) Second Messenger
    5) Guard
    6) 20 of the Clean with Horns and Tails
  6. Saints:
    1) Methuselah
    2) Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    3) Leo Tolstoy
    4) Gabriel
    5) First Angel
    6) Second Angel
    7) Angels.
  7. Jehovah
  8. Actors of the Promised Land:
    1) A Hammer
    2) A Sickle
    3) Machines
    4) Trains
    5) Automobiles
    6) A Carpenter's Plane
    7) Tongs
    8) A Needle
    9) A Saw
    10) Bread
    11) Salt
    12) Sugar
    13) Fabrics
    14) A Boot
    15) A Board and Lever
  9. The Man of the Future

Settings of the ActsEdit

  1. - The entire universe.
  2. - The Ark.
  3. - Hell.
  4. - Paradise.
  5. - Lord of chaos.
  6. - The promised land.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit