Culture
Synetic Theatre Revives Old Epic in Mime-Drama
08 November, 2012

Successful Georgian Troupe based in the States pays its first visit to its Native Land

 

On 3-4 October, for the first time, on the invitation of  the Development Foundation of Rustaveli Theatre, and with the support of the U.S Embassy, Synetic Theatre from Washington, headed by the Georgian immigrant Paata Tsikurishvili are taking a Georgian tour ‘to pay a tribute’ to the native stage and present the poem of our writer of genius Vazha-Pshavela “The Guest and the Host”.

Americans believe

that if people want a theatre, they will keep it without having any funding from the state except from few projects. When the future couple Paata and Irina met in Tbilisi, they vowed to each other that they would found a theatre in the States. They did it. The young man went to the greatest country of the world in late 1990s. He had no relatives, no friends there and did not speak English. It happened so that they began by pantomime (one of Paata’s professions is a pantomime actor and Irina, his wife, danced well as she was a graduate of the Georgian School of Choreography). However, they found the profession of a mime rather humiliating. Therefore, he decided to change the profile and start with synthetic art.

One of the theatre directors saw him in one of the restaurants and offered him to stage something (Paata Tsikurishvili’s second profession is film directing). Then, together with Andrei Babel, the couple decided to open a theatre. It was called “Stanislavski Theatre-Studio”.  Later on, the theatre acquired the new name Synetic, which derives from two words – kinetic and synthesis and aptly describes its concept. Of course, it was more than difficult to find their own selves and to emerge among 85 theatres working in Washington D.C. But they managed to acquire their own niche and survive, rivaled by the 80-year-old Shakespeare theatre and many others. They call it mime-drama, as it is a synthesis of pantomime and text.  However, the performance that became a subject of real admiration, was quite minimalistic in terms of stage scenery and textual assistance. It was richer with dancing and pantomime, really Georgian and really rhythmic, traditional and contemporary at the same time. The choreography belongs to Irina Tsikurishvili who also stars in Aghaza’s part. The story is about Caucasian couple who dare to act against the strict hillside rules. In those days, in Georgia as well as among our neighboring Caucasian tribes, it was a normal thing to search for revenge, and due to it, vendetta seemed to continue from generation to generation. They would not retreat if another family owed them even one man’s life and, in those cases of vendetta families and even the whole generations were often annihilated. The poem tells us the story of one distinguished Georgian, Khevsur man by the surname of Zviadauri who met with a Kisti man Jokola while hunting and they become friends. The latter invited the former to his house. However, this was a fatal mistake, as Zviadauri turned out to be his brother’s killer, whom Jokola did not recognize. Later on, the head of their tribe, named Musa (starring our eminent actor Kakhi Kavsadze) finds out that it is Zviadauri – their enemy and it is unpardonable for them to host him as a friend. But Jokola argues that they may be right, but he will not break the other tradition of hosting a guest and won’t harm  the man who came to his house as a guest. The confrontation develops into a grim conflict. When Zviadauri is taken away to be killed as a revenge for the murdered relatives, Jokola tries to oppose them and in this combat he occasionally kills Musa, who raised him like a father. Jokola is expelled from the community. Zviadauri is killed. Aghaza, who witnesses the tragedy, secretly mourn for the enemy who turned out to be a real hero and died as a hero, withstanding a lot of torture. The author says that Zviadauri was dying, but they could not kill his brave heart. Soon, Khevsurs hear about their hero’s death and come to take his corpse home and Jokola is killed while fighting with them.

Aghaza, who is a woman protagonist, is furious that his husband is killed and expelled from the village. She secretly buries Jokola and finds solution in the waves of stormy river.

Georgian public received the performance with great appraisal and storm of applauds.

However, following the premiere, it turned out that Paata Tsukurishvili was the pupil of Amiran Shalikashvili senior, our eminent theatre director, founder of Georgian pantomime school, who blamed his pupil of plagiarism.“We are very theatrical nation. America can teach us politics, economy, but not culture. This is my production and he should not have brought it on their tour,” he commented.

More moderate was his son, actor Amiran Shalikashvili junior, who himself saw the performance and who allayed his father’s doubts. “This is my father’s stage scenario and he should have at least written on the posters: ‘based on the scenes of the performance by Amiran Shalikashvili’”.

However, Paata Tsikurishvili denied this blame and answered: “I have of course some influence because I have studied at Shalikashvili’s school. It does not mean that I don’t have the right to continue, or that I stole something. Did Shalikashvili stop working because he had predecessors like Marcel Marceau and others? I don’t think that it is bad that there is some resemblance.”

The finale is quite impressive: a girl in the part of a deer comes as a symbol of freedom – Aghaza killed herself, but freedom is immortal, as Vazha-Pshavela’s “The Guest and the Host” teaches us.

Synetic Theatre is the one that was nominated for 89 times for Helen Hayes Awards, which is equal to Oscar in the theatrical world and actually received it for 25 times. This is the troupe that managed to be so bold as to stage Shakespeare speechlessly, thus provoking a lot of protests from different corners of the world, including BBC and CNN. When they saw “Hamlet”, one of the critics who had been really disposed to sharp criticism, as Shakespeare is generally admired for his wise words, uttered: “This is the Hamlet we have in our bones”.

The theatre is still in Tbilisi and will be presenting Shakespeare’s “King Lear” speechlessly on November 8-9 at Rustaveli Theatre, Tbilisi. Georgian Journal wishes these ‘crazy guys’ loads of success.

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