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John Malkovich Performs at Tbilisi Theatre Festival

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, September 15
Shota Rustaveli National Drama Theatre hosted the first day of the annual Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre with The Infernal Comedy starring American actor John Malkovich. The stage-play, directed by Michael Sturminger, is based on the real life-story of a convicted murderer. It features a baroque orchestra, two sopranos and one actor and opened to a Georgian audience for the first time on September 14. “I always wanted to come to Tbilisi, so it was a natural thing to do. Theatre and opera you do live and there is a good audience which is very important for us. We are glad to be here,” Malkovich told the media earlier that day at the Radisson hotel.

Malkovich, a world famous actor, producer and director was not familiar with Georgian theatre or cinematography but explained that he did not know American, French or German movies either but only because he does not often go to see them. “But Georgia is a very interesting place I always wanted to see. I hope to travel the whole Silk Road of which Tbilisi was always a major step,” the Hollywood star said.

Sharing his specific views towards The Infernal Comedy Malkovich stressed how interesting it is to work on a piece of documentary material. Finding it difficult to compare the movies and theatre the actor said he could hardly find any commonalities between the two arts forms. “You never go back to a movie role - you may reissue a scene or replace it with a different one while, this piece [The Infernal Comedy] has gone on for three years and I work on it every week either in front of the audience or on my own,” the actor commented.

Sharing his future plans with the Georgian audience, Malkovich named a couple of movies which are due to be released in the near future. Siberian Education, Young Adult, Warmed Bodies and Red are among the films starring Malkovich which will soon attract world attention. “I don’t know if I have a tendency to do any particular kind of role but probably the way I work on things doesn’t change,” Malkovich told the media explaining that actors do not choose the roles they do in movies, and are instead picked for those roles.

The American icon, who arrived in Tbilisi on Tuesday, had an opportunity to see Old Tbilisi with the city mayor Gigi Ugulava. Expressing his interest in Georgian handmade carpets Malkovich had a rest at the newly-opened Rike Park and later also tried Georgian wine.

As Neka Sebiskveradze of Tbilisi City Hall told The Messenger, the International Festival of Theatre began in 2009 as an initiative of City Hall with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. Expressing her gratitude towards the private sector, Sebiskveradze emphasized the contribution of smaller companies in the success of the festival which aims at becoming the main event of the Georgian cultural calendar.

It was the US Embassy which took responsibility for inviting John Malkovich to participate in the festival. “One of the main things that is attractive about Georgia is the importance of culture for Georgians,” Michael Turner, US Embassy Public Affairs Officer, told The Messenger adding that “this festival is one of the main activities of the season”. Turner emphasized the importance of Malkovich for the American movie and theatre scene due to the latter's successful career and expressed his delight that he would perform to the Georgian audience.

The 25-day festival unites art from 26 countries at 6 host theatres. The public had a wonderful opportunity to see Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili's colorful sets and costumes at the Rustaveli Theatre just before The Infernal Comedy. For his innovative works, designed for hundreds of performances around the world, Meskhishvili has received various local and international prizes.

Festival Director Eka Mazmishvili welcomed the increased public interest and discussions around the performances of the three year old festival. “It is only the beginning of the beginning and there are more unrealized ideas in our plans for the future than there are accomplished projects in our first three years. Each work of art is connected to the risk at the heart of artistic enterprise. Georgian audiences feel this very clearly and value that risk, playing an active part in the process of giving birth to new work,” Mazmishvili said further stressing the importance of the audience for the success of the “newly born” festival.