Autumn in Georgia is generally rich with cultural events. Indeed, this autumn, appears to be particularly bountiful as Tbilisi will host two international theatre festivals.
After the Georgian Dream came to power in October 2012, representatives of theatrical sphere wondered whether the tradition of organizing an annual Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre, which started in 2009 with the support of Tbilisi Mayor's Office, would continue. As one of the most expensive and largest-scale cultural events in Georgia, this festival served as an example of the cultural activity of the former government of the United National Movement. Consequently, after the change of power propositions were made about either scrapping or transforming the festival. Yet another suggestion was to replace that festival with the Mikheil Tumanishvili International Art Festival, the GIFT, which was first launched in 1997 but had been suspended for the past four years because of a lack of funding. After it became known that the GIFT would be resumed with the support of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, people, including representatives of the theatrical sphere, said that the resumption of the GIFT had been the aim of Keti Dolidze, the arts manager of the festival, who had been fervently fighting against the former government for a change of power. Regardless of the controversial attitudes towards the organizer of the festival, the continuance of both festivals must have been a very pleasing development for theatregoers.
The Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre (19 September – 8 October)
This year, the international program of the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre includes a play staged by a director of such renown that, as I have learnt, people have planned to travel to Georgia just to watch it. This indicates that the importance of the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre has become enhanced; it is no longer seen as only a local cultural event.
The performance that will prompt an influx of people to arrive in Tbilisi is "Far Side of the Moon" directed by Robert Lepage, the renowned director, actor, playwright, founder and art manager of Quebec's Ex Machina theatre. This play, which was first staged in 2000, will open the international program of the festival on 20 and 21 September.
This production, which is considered as Lepage's masterpiece, will prove very interesting for theatre professionals. Until 2007, the stage director performed the leading role himself. This time around, the Georgian audience will be watching Yves Jacques take the lead in the play directed by the famous Canadian director who has also staged world tours of Peter Gabriel and the shows of Cirque du Soleil.
The international program of the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre will continue with a performance staged by Maja Kleczewska from Poland, a country distinguished for its diversity of experimental forms of theatre. In last year's festival, the Georgian audience had the possibility of watching another play staged by her "The Death of Gods." That play was performed within days of the appalling prison video footage having been released and people were under a great deal of shock. I remember seeing a segment of the audience, including representatives of the art sphere, leaving the hall before that play ended because they were unable to watch the Nazism and violence staged in the scene. However, it really was worth watching it to the end, if nothing else but to help generalize the problem and not accept it literally. At this year's festival the Georgian audience will be watching Kleczewska's interpretation of "Macbeth," which will be no less appropriate. Alike "The Death of Gods," Kleczewska first staged this play in the Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole. Her modern interpretation of this play by William Shakespeare will be presented in the Alexander Griboedov State Russian Drama Theatre on 23 September.On 24, 25 and 26 September, the big stages of the Marjanishili and Rustaveli Theatres will be given to the productions of Radu Stanca, the National Theatre of Romania. The literary works on which the productions of this theatre are based will not be unfamiliar to Georgian audiences. They will first perform Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and then Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," both directed by Silviu Purcărete, a Romanian considered to be the master of massive, multi-character plays. Both of these very different performances will certainly attract the interest of theatregoers.
People attending the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre will also be happy to hear that the international program includes a performance from the Gecko Company of the United Kingdom. This company's production of "The Overcoat" by Nikolai Gogol, which was presented during the first international festival in 2009, was among the plays Georgian viewers liked the most. I hope their performance of Amit Lahav's "Missing," to be shown on a big stage of the Kote Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre on 27 September, will prove to be similarly memorable.
From the Caucasus region, the festival includes a play staged by an Armenian director, Hakob Ghazanchyan, who also participated in the 2009 festival. The Yerevan State Youth Theatre will show its musical fantasy "Marcel" recounting the tragic life of Edith Piaf.
The international program of the festival also includes a puppet play directed by Levan Tsuladze. "Platero: Travels with a Donkey," which is based on a play by Juan Ramón Jiménez, is a joint production of several creative groups. It promises to be: "A musical ride on a mercurial donkey deep into the soul of a small Spanish town," as announced on the official website of the festival (http://www.tbilisiinternational.com/en/). The webpage also tells us that this play for adult viewers was produced, along with Levan Tsuladze, by Mike Maran (author of the adapted version and storyteller), Nino Namitcheishvili, Craig Ogden and Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco.The Emilia Romagna Teatro of Italy will bring the play "After the Battle" to Tbilisi. The author and stage director of this play is Pippo Delbono, who studied oriental theatre for years and at the end of the 1980s worked with the world-renowned Pina Bausch.
Along with the Gecko Company, another British company, 1927, will offer its unusual production, "The Animals and Children Took to the Streets." This play, directed by Suzanne Andrade, was evaluated by the British press as being "a perfect show" that is "brilliantly inventive, funny, poignant and visually entrancing."
In parallel with the main international program, the audience will be able to attend plays from Romania, Finland, Denmark, Israel, Russia and Poland within the framework of the international program "NEW". This program includes "How infinite, endless is this cold..." an independent project by Nana Beradze, an author, director and scenographer, that was produced in Israel based on poems by Nana Shabatashvili.
No less interesting is what the Georgian theatre companies are going to offer. More information on these can be found from the Tabula website (http://www.tabula.ge/).
International Art Festival GIFT (13 – 27 October)
The Mikheil Tumanishvili International Art Festival, the GIFT, will be held for the 12th time this year. The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia has earmarked 200,000 GEL for its organization. Even though the festival's program has not yet been finalized, we can still say, from what has already been announced (http://www.giftfestival.ge/), that the GIFT, in contrast to the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre, will be more retrospective and will enable theatregoers to evaluate a stage director not only on one single performance but over a series of several performances. For example, Dimitry Krymov, a Russian painter, scenographer, director, will bring four plays to the festival: "Opus N7;" "Giraffe Death;" "Katya, Sonya, Polya, Galya, Vera, Olya, Tanya...," and "Three Sisters."Theatre professionals are especially looking forward to a play by the world-renowned director Peter Brook. "The Suit," included in the international program, is based on a play by an African writer, Can Themba. Peter Brook's daughter, Irina Brook, will also present her performance "The Island Trilogy," which comprises "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare, "The Odyssey" by Homer, and "The Island of Slaves" by Pierre Marivaux.
Yet another famous artist, whose participation is a matter of pride for the festival's organizers, is Sasha Waltz. Georgian audiences will have the change to watch the "Travelogue Trilogy," which is considered to be the choreographer's calling card.
At a news conference held in the Mikheil Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre we learned that musical, circus, dance and puppet performances will all be held within the framework of the GIFT. In addition, creative groups will arrive from Finland, France, Spain, Turkey, Poland, and Lithuania. Such productions will be interesting for their modern dramaturgy and their interpretation of the literary works on which they are based.
According to the festival's art manager, the GIFT is an analogue of the Edinburgh festival and offers mainly international performances. The Georgian plays included in the program of this festival are: "Hunting Season," directed by Rober Sturua and "The Lad from Tavparavani" by Goga Tavadze. The Stas Namin Music and Drama Theatre of Russia will offer "Underground," directed by Keti Dolidze, based on a play by Inga Garuchava and Peter Kotyanovsky. The Juozo Miltinio Drama Theatre from Lithuania will play "Hello, People!" (written by a Georgian writer Nodar Dumbadze) directed by Vasil Chigogidze.
Organizers of the GIFT promise that the tickets will be affordable for the wider public. The program will soon be finalized, enabling people to make their final choices about what to see. As regards the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre, its organizers have already determined the price of tickets. Tickets for a single performance will cost from between 10 and 55 GEL whilst the price of the three different types of season ticket available will be 140, 170 and 210 GEL.