Saturday, March 17, 2007

Being a young president...

...in a newly emerging democracy (really only 3 years in Georgia) must be hard! Not only are you a young guy, with not such great experience, running a country which, at the time, was deeply mired in corruption, deep poverty, no electricity etc, but then you find geezers, older and younger than you, ganging up and producing a satirical play called 'Soldier, Love, Bodyguard and... the President'. But what can a President do? In a democracy he cannot really be do anything unless the play is deeply offensive (which it's not, almost) but then again, one does feel for him now and again.

This is one weird play. Described as a comedy, but the first half is hard work - the programme notes are the funniest bit here. Essentially it is a play of two halves, with the first half about a soldier who returns from one of Georgia's many wars minus a leg, but who meets angels who restore the leg (though he drifts in and out of angel contact and keeps gaining and losing the leg - bit of a bravura acting job for Gagi Svanidze). Eventually he settles with the leg but loses his wife instead (she is actually a disguised angel). The second part is then set in the chancellery of 'a' president where various shenanigans go on. Funny that, considering that in Georgia the President's office is called the 'Chancellery' whereas in Lithuania, for example, it's called the 'Prezidentura'.

The programme notes state, at the start of their description of either half, that 'Act 1' (or 2) 'is not about the president'. They also helpfully provide a list of 'songs and poems and cliches' used in the performance, one of which is the 'bear', described as a symbol of 'Georgia's big northern neighbour'. And finally the tell the joke that the angel was trying, unsuccessfully, to tell the soldier, Valiko, all through the first half.

This performance is thin on dialogue, and heavy on action (the latter like most of Sturua's performances). The Ministry of funny walks has been busy again, and has developed a separate branch of funny arm movements. The second half is much better than the first half, which seems a bit pointless and very tenously connected to the second half - the applause at the end of the first half sounded bewildered. The president only appears in the second half (played wonderfully by Beso Zanguri who seems to specialise in playing men in high places); he suffers from fear of the dentist, has oral sex with his wife (missed a trick here, why not the secretary?), his wife is being accused of being a spy for a foreign country, the song (hymn?) 'America, America' keeps popping up with the whole chancellery snapping to attention, at the end everyone is dead because the president's bodyguard, who has a gay crush on him, has killed them all. You get the picture.

And the joke? A hunter bumps into a bear in the forest. The bear says to him, 'Hunter, do you prefer I kill you or I rape you?'. The hunter chooses to live. The same happens again and again. When they meet for the fourth time, the bear asks, 'Hunter, do you come here for sex or hunting?'.

Before the theatre I had been to a small concert at the conservatory of a young pianist, playing Bach, Schubert and Mozart in the face of adversity....A TV camera man wandered round with his big camera, filming the guy from all directions, almost up his nostril, and then departed in a clatter of camera, while the pianist was still playing. Not nice. He played quite well, but seemed a bit stiff in his interpretations. And the Steinway lacked warmth, I thought. But it was nice seeing someone play with relaxed hands....