4th Year of the Georgian Pantomime Festival

From July 6-8, Tbilisi hosted a three-day Georgian Pantomime Festival that is now in its 4th year. The festival was organized by the Shalikashvili State Pantomime Theater, which was established in Georgia in 1965. Over the course of the 3 days, people had an opportunity to become acquainted with Georgian pantomime, attend various shows, performances, book presentations, exhibitions and most importantly, a yoga master class by Baptiste Marceau, son of the great Marcel Marceau of French pantomime.

Baptiste’s introduction to yoga came naturally. Thirty-one years ago, while travelling as a renounced sadhu, he found himself at a Himalayan temple in India. There, he encountered an elder sadhu who had white hair and a youthful appearance. Pleased with Baptistes admiration for the impressive sequences he had executed, the elder offered Baptiste the chance to try yoga. Since then, yoga has become an integral part of his life. His father was a French Actor and Mime Artist, mostly known for his stage persona as "Bip the Clown". He referred to mime as the "art of silence” and performed professionally worldwide for over 60 years. During his career, he visited Georgia and became acquainted with his future colleague and friend Amiran Shalikashvili, who later founded The Georgian Pantomime Theater.

The festival saw two major performances of two world classics. Director Davit Shalikashvili brought Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel The Old Man and the Sea to life to the stage, which was accompanied by electronic, rock and jazz musical elements. The second performance was the 12th century Georgian poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin, Amiran Shalikashvili’s signature play. Besides the new generation of mime artists, veteran artists also took part in the performances.

GEORGIA TODAY talked with Junior Amiran Shalikashvili , the son of the founder of the theater, who currently is the lead for mime theater and has many plans:

“One of the most important things in this festival was having Baptiste Marceau as part of our festival. The son of world famous mime artist Marcel Marceau came to Georgia especially for this occasion. Marceau was the founder of the French mime school, who was also a friend of my father. Our meeting was quite symbolic, since our fathers gave birth to the art of pantomime in both countries. Baptiste Marceau held yoga masterclass and we, together, held a presentation of a book by my father Amiran Shalikashvili. The book is about the world mime school, and it has been released in English for the first time. Within three days, the festival saw two premiers, The Old Man and The Sea by Dato Shalikashvili, and also a live performance broadcast via Facebook. The latter was only intended for social media yet accumulated around 10,000 views. The performance was directed professionally with two cameras. This was held for the second time this year and we plan to deliver live performances annually to reach a more global audience.

Amiran Shalikashvili, my father, who is about to turn 80, took to the stage on the closing of the festival. He staged the play Knight in the Panther’s Skin on the last day of the festival. He is currently working on pieces by the famous Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze and plans to transform his rhymes into plays on the stage” Junior Shalikashvili explained.

The festival also included Kakha Bakuradze’s Recitative in the City from the well-known Movement Theater. As part of the festival, two exhibitions were held, on July 7 Giorgi Shengelaia’s artwork was displayed and as the festival drew to a close on July 8, internationally celebrated Georgian artist Rusudan Petviashvili’s exhibition was held. The festival was very diverse and colorful, offering people of different interests and ages various kinds of performances and shows, together with live electronic music events.

“We fully used our space, both the hall and the yard of the festival. It is noteworthy that people of all ages were interested in the festival and 80 percent of the audience was foreigners and tourists. Overall in comparison with previous years the festival was quite successful”, Junior Amiran Shalikashvili elaborated.

“My father started mastering mime in the 1960s. In 1961, he met the great Marcel Marceau by chance and became good friends with him. On May 13, 1965, Amiran’s debut performance was held in Tbilisi. The Georgian Pantomime Theater was established an impressive 54 years ago. In 1976, the theater earned the title of State Theater, and in 1978 a special faculty was established at the Shota Rustaveli Theater and Film Georgia State University. Over the years, the theater functioned successfully, it toured throughout Europe and was quite famous at that time. Despite many hardships such as civil war, when there were clashes in the streets, the theater did not close, and my father was performing on stage on his own. Now I think the new era in the history of Georgian pantomime has commenced, with new life breathed in to the theater, the recruitment of new staff as well as a new generation of artists participating. Yet, simultaneously, we strive to preserve the classic form of Georgian pantomime as well as transfer it to future generations. For this reason, we closed the festival with the stage version of the poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin. This classic still remains popular and is included in our program. This is Georgia’s trademark in the world of pantomime, thus we should strive to keep it alive. I try to maintain it and to adjust the modernity to reflect current times”, - Junior Amiran Shalikashvili told us.

Apart from The Shalikashvili Pantomime Festival, the theater operates on year-round and offers weekly plays. The good thing about Pantomime Theater is that there is no language barrier and anyone can attend and enjoy fascinating performances by professional artists.

By Lika Chigladze

12 July 2018 20:56