Poster for the Premier of Julius Caesar at Rustaveli Theatre

Julius Caesar / იულიუს კეისარი

performed by the Rustaveli Theatre Company in the Rustaveli Theatre

The Rustaveli Theatre Company seems to have been inspired by my 10th Grade English curriculum. We read both 12 Angry Men and Julius Caesar that year…perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tale of Two Cities are next in the repertoire.

Unfortunately, my attendance at this play was off to a bad start when my attempts to buy tickets online sucked me into the biletebi.ge drama. My money was taken, but no tickets appeared and customer service did not reply to multiple messages. In the end, I bought the tickets direct from Rustaveli Theatre’s box office, my bank returned my money, and I did not hear a peep from biletebi.ge. I retract my previous endorsements of their service.

I was looking forward to seeing this production, because I know the story well, and like it. In addition to reading it in school, I’ve seen two other professional productions of the play, so you could say I’m a fan. This version was also directed by Robert Sturua, someone so famous in Georgia that even I’ve heard of him! So my hopes were high.

Now, this could be considered a spoiler, so stop reading if you’re sensitive, but I suggest you continue reading on anyway. It might spare you some disappointment.

THEY ONLY DO HALF THE PLAY. Yup, that’s right. They only do half the play, clocking in at under 2 hours for a Shakespeare play! It’s crazy. It also changes the whole play. Caesar dies, everyone claps, and the cast takes their curtain call. Now the play is not about Antony, but about Caesar. And also, this version of the play is pretty boring–it doesn’t get into the psychology and aftermath of an act the way the real play does. It’s just a bunch of guys walking around, then killing their friend. I’m pretty sure my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Mealey, would NOT approve of this change. I certainly don’t.

In addition to my artistic differences over when to end the play, I didn’t understand some of the other choices made in the production. The setting seemed to be an old theatre or cinema, but who the characters were supposed to be or where/when they were never clicked for me. (My Georgian friend confirmed turned to me at one point and said that he also didn’t get it, so this was not just a language issue). I got the impression that the setting and costumes (mid-century gangsters, I think?) were chosen because they were cheap and accessible. I’ve been involved in and/or watched some productions that had similar constraints, but most high school and college productions I’ve seen have pulled it off MUCH better (and they are not the national theatre company, so the audience is understandably a bit more forgiving). They might have been able to pull it off had they done the second half of the play, because I was just starting to get into their world when they just stopped.

Like in most other productions I’ve seen in Georgia, the actors did occasionally burst into song or just start dancing. I didn’t find it added or subtracted anything from the overall play, but it seems to be the fashion.

Unfortunately, this was the worst play I’ve seen in Georgia, but it must be commended for its creativity. This production failed because it took a lot of risks; it’s just that they almost all fell flat. Nonetheless, it was certainly a more thought-provoking performance than the very risk-free and traditional performance of The Cherry Orchard at the Griboedov Theatre.

If you want to see Shakespeare in Georgian, I recommend you give Julius Caesar a pass, but run and buy your tickets to As You Like It as soon as you can!