at the Tbilisi International Theatre Festival. By Michael WIERSING SUDAU
Let's be quite frank from the beginning: You need to like this kind of thing - this genre of performance - to really appreciate it. However, in my probably quite limited range of things I like, this kind of darkish, terrifying presentation celebrating cruelness and pains and morbidity is not included. I find it hard to find anything funny in phrases like "she loves boiling babies" even if I know that they are not meant for real and only just pronounced for the sake of a show, to stir up some laughter from the audience. Someone who likes this sort of performance may be able to say if it was good or not so good, but I cannot. Sorry.
Anyhow I would like to offer some thoughts: There is no doubt that the performance enjoyed great success, and particularly the strategy of the Tiger Lillies to transfer their performance after the show into the entrance hall of the theatre - for making photographs with those people who bought their CDs - worked out perfectly. I do not want to be mean, and it makes perfectly sense for a band promoting their work. I only have doubts, to what extent the audience actually understands the contents. One thing remarkable about this festival is its attempt to translate all the performances into Georgian, giving subtitles at every performance. Whereas at other festivals live interpretation is offered - or nothing at all - to provide the text is actually worthy of praise, as it supposes a lot of extra work. So the audience may have understood the contents by reading the Georgian translation, and may have understood more than the casual foreigner does, who knows English. I lived for three years in the U.K., but had difficulties in understanding the songs, not least because they were all pronounced in that quirky voice of the singer. So if the text was translated correctly into Georgian, spectators may have understood the wording. Does this, however, enable them to understand the contents ? I doubt.
The explanation of the success of this performance - rather a concert than a musical or a drama - must be the English language - which has endured fashionable fame for the last 100 years worldwide, and has made this the most popular language of all languages for foreigners - and the particular inclination of young people towards everything odd and darkish, for some time during their lives and especially between the age of 10 and 25. In our youth we loved "The Cure" and things gothic, because they seemed the opposite of the nice world of our parents and somehow shocking. With these two ingredients - English language and shocking contents - it is not hard to win the hearts of the audience. And given the fact that it is Shakespeare's language, even those hearts of those who are elderly and do not share any particular preference for Mr. Poe.
Obviously the performers themselves are grown-up people and are in possession of a particular affection for the writer. However, if they really would have liked the audience to understand their attempt of a portrait of Poe, an introductory talk by them or of any Georgian specialist would have been useful. Otherwise - and this speaks true of nearly all performances from international companies at the festival - in the end the audience will have seen the shows, but gathered much less from them than was possible. How should anyone understand Poe's tortured soul without any more information ? Success is a nice thing, learnt success would certainly feel even better for the actors - wishing to promote the artistic work of Poe - and the audience - getting to really know the work of an artist and not just superficially believing to have understood something.
Michael WIERSING SUDAU,
Accredited journalist at the Tbilisi International Theatre Festival