by Arthur Schnitzler
Directed by Levan Tsuladze
In Georgian with a live English translation
The Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre of Tbilisi
Tsuladze last charmed London audiences with his production of Faust as part of the Gate Theatre’s East Meets West Festival in 2002. Here he makes a bold interpretation of Schniztler's classic, employing his particular brand of satirical humour and warmth to convey the absurd tragedy of an indulgence in loveless sexuality.
This production is the latest in a series of Georgian Theatrical pieces that have had enormous impact on British audiences. The Georgian tradition is renowned for its inventiveness and romanticism. In a reaction perhaps to the tumultuous history of Georgia from its recent confrontation with Russia to the civil war of the 90s, Soviet oppression and two hundred years of sitting at an important international crossroads, Georgians really do know how to find humour in our crazy capacity to needlessly and repeatedly inflict pain upon ourselves. Rarely bleak, this production exudes warmth and a profound sense of humanity and will amuse and delight in equal measure.
this was such a treat of pure joyous exquisitely crafted theatre by this expert Georgian company. the levels were too low to hear a lot of the the simultaneous translation being overdubbed in microphones by two voice actors sitting to one side and having their own little interplay, but the physical performances were so clear that it was easy to read what what happening in the dance from loveless coupling to the next. the period costumes looked especially lush and expensive in the knocked back (and knocked up) set which of black panels which would slide on a rail to reveal the bare and perfect essentials of a new scene, superbly illuminated: the rain for the prostitute and the soldier to play in, the set of doorways to view the parade of strolling people, the bath for the young gentleman and the maid, the enormous brass bed for the young gentleman and the wife, the chaise longue for the wife and the husband (with the soldier at their window), the artist's studio for the writer and the young miss, the dressing room for the actress and the count. and a motif of butterflies seen only by those in moments of feeling free and happy: the prostitute and the count in a great flock of them at the end.
my only gripe was the space - our first visit to Arcola and it's quite a schlep (home at 1am) and for this setting the sight lines were appalling so a lot of us sitting in the middle missed whole characters obscured by the central iron beam, and nothing was visible at ground level (and as this was a show about people having sex there was quite a lot of that!)