I promised to write this post a week ago, but life (read: power outages, work, a trip to Mtskheta, headaches) waylaid me. But I'd be remiss if I didn't write about my attendance of Robert Sturua's Twelfth Night (which I idiotically referred to as The Tempest in my previous post - blame aforesaid headaches and a preponderance of shipwrecks in Shakespeare!)
It was absolutely bizarre. Not, like The Decameron, which was on at the Marjanishvili Theatre and is one of the best pieces of theatre I've ever seen. Twelfth was simply...strange. I know the text well enough to be able to follow the story, and while I may be rusty on minor plot-points, I'm quite sure (spoiler alert), it doesn't end with a thorn-crowned Jesus turning up carrying his cross while Viola and Sebastian run away in terror! Nor does it open with the annunciation to the Virgin Mary and the despairing of Joseph (I was wondering why Duke Orsino was wearing tallit, and Olivia a wimple). Having caught onto the Holy Family presence once the donkey turned up (...and didn't leave during the dramatic homoerotic Orsino/"Cesario" scene), I came to the conclusion that we were meant to contrast the frivolous festivities of the twelfth night celebrations with the gravity of the true meaning of Christmas.
I'm not sure it translated emotionally, but nevertheless, Twelfth Night was extraordinarily technically brilliant. I've noticed, both here and in The Decameron, that the predominant theatre-style here tends to be far more physical/visual, over-the-top, commedia-dell'arte-style than is fashionable in the US or UK. There's little here of "method" acting, or rough "kitchen sink" drama - if anything, the style here is far less naturalist, far more choreographed, stylized and theatrical. (As a devotee of commedia dell'arte, I happen to vastly prefer this sort of theatre.)
And the thing is - pulling off that kind of theatricality is bloody hard. You don't simply need to be a "good actor." You need to be able to control your breath, facial muscles, body, posture, timing. And the cast at the Rustaveli theatre were bloody fantastic. Maria and Feste were played as stereotypical "harlequin clowns" (complete with balloon-popping and head-knocking and gleefully unironic skipping about), with Malvolio as the mincing, prancing, fantastically hammish star of the whole production. The three of them (and indeed, the cast as a whole), displayed some of the best vocal/physical training I've ever seen in an ensemble - even with my lack of Georgian, there were few lines whose "points" didn't come across physically or aurally.
(Meanwhile Olivia was played as an overly melodramatic femme fatale, and got rather subsumed into the "clown" narrative, while poor, dreadfully earnest Viola and Orsino were all but forgotten...)
After three years of Oxford theatre, which can get terribly pretentious/full-of-itself/"relevant", there's something truly joyous about going to a show like this - a show where the actors stop and preen when the audience goes mad over a certain funny line (and Malvolio deigns to wink at the front row), where the audience leaps up in applause, where nobody is afraid of being theatrical or over the top - there's such a sense of delight and play, in the best sense of the word, that renders the lugubrious earnestness of so much "kitchen-sink" theatre ridiculous in its very attempts at gravity!
Between this and The Decameron, I think I've been won over by Georgian theatre. (Lest ye bloggers think I'm obnoxiously positive about everything in Georgia, however, be sure that nearly had a conniption last night after suffering the THIRD long-term (almost 12 hrs) blackout in my flat in eight days (after months of no problems at all), and that I haven't slept in almost a week due to my neighbors' noctural tendencies (but they deserve a post all to themselves)
To be fair, I'm still not sure I got much out of the donkey.
Also - a special mention to commentator Mixho, who recommended the "Patriarchy Food Shop" to me. I'd been wondering where to buy produce in my area, as I'm a twenty-minute walk from the nearest Populi, and most of the markets in my neighborhood focus on bread/eggs/canned goods, with only a few pathetically bruised vegetables. While slightly pricey, the food shop associated with Sioni Cathedral (to the right, facing the church from the river, in the little garden) is amazing. Monk-produced honey, beans, bread, cheese, phenomenal produce - including delicious oranges and armfuls of spinach - all procured for you by World's Nicest Orthodox Priest. Take that, Dean and DeLuca!*
*English readers, read: Waitrose and/or Fortnum and Mason.