As You Like It / როგორც გენებოთ
performed by the Marjanishvili Theatre Company on the Large Stage of the Marjanishvili Theatre
“As You Like It” isn’t one of the Shakespeare plays I’m most familiar with–my Mom tells me I saw it as a kid at a Shakespeare festival. I remember going to that Shakespeare festival, but I couldn’t tell you what play I saw there, or even what it was about (I think it might have been set in the woods–that only narrows things down a little). We’ll trust her on this one. Since this production was in Georgian, I did do what any sensible person would do, and read the Wikipedia page to give myself an idea of the plot and characters so I’d be better able to follow along. Overall, the production was excellent, and captured that magical surrealness of a Shakespearean comedy. The friend I attended with hadn’t seen much theatre in the past, and seeing him become entranced by the production reminded me of the magic of good theatre.
The scene was set with a smaller stage on the stage, where most of the action took place. The actors who were “offstage” were still visible, sometimes driving the plot from there and interacting with the “onstage” cast, making minor costume and prop changes, “playing” cards, “prompting” the characters who “forgot” their lines, and providing many of the sound effects and much of the soundtrack. It was an interesting touch. The other show I have seen also involved some on-stage percussion by the actors, so I think it might be in fashion in the world of Georgian theatre.
One thing I found really impressive about the play was the choreography. Though there were no dances, as such. Leaves fell onto the stage, and rather than clearing them away, they were utilized in later scenes. The ways the actors used the leaves and moved with them and through them was really beautiful. I also enjoyed the style of the fight choreography–it was comedic and sometimes purposely false and over-the-top, but still just threatening enough to move the plot forward. It conveyed both seriousness and comedy.
Another interesting directorial decision was the casting of women in two “man” roles. The actresses played the parts well (they weren’t roles where gender was actually important, they were just customarily men), and it was an interesting turnabout on Shakespearean tradition, since in the original Shakespeare plays, all the roles, even the women, were played by men.
The theatre itself wasn’t as spectacular as the Rustaveli Theatre, but it was still quite nice. The seats weren’t as comfortable, though. Ticket prices for the show were in the 6-16 lari range. I bought 14 lari tickets to make sure we had a good view, but it seems to be a small enough theatre that there are no bad seats in the house.
Of course many are interested in the “language question”. The play was almost entirely in Georgian, (a word or two of French, and some interjections of “As You Like It” in English) with no subtitles or language assistance. That being said, this show did play at The Globe in London, and it’s designed to be follow-able for people who don’t speak Georgian. Even with my level of Georgian, I wasn’t always able to understand–they spoke quickly, and made many verbal jokes and puns (probably). However, it was easy to follow the general plot, and the play was visually interesting. If you don’t speak Georgian, it’s OK if you’re interested in the performance visually, but if you’re an auditory person it might not be the best choice.
There’s another performance scheduled for March 13 (tickets available at the theatre or online), and the play remains part of the company’s repertoire, so should come up again. You can look for future information here.