Henrik Ibsen, the great Norwegian playwright and poet, ranks second to Shakespeare for the frequency with which his work is performed on stages around the world, but he is less popular in contemporary Georgia. Nonetheless, 23-year-old director Misha Charkviani has decided to try his hand at one of Ibsen’s most distinguished plays, “Ghosts,” at the Music and Drama Theatre. It premiered on 26-27 November.
The translation is by Davit Gabunia, musical composition comes from Nika Pasuri, and the set design is provided by Levan Ochkhikidze. The performance is recommended both to foreigners and Georgians, since Ibsen’s classic work is timeless and never loses its topicality.
Buba Gogorishvili played her role - of Helen Alving, a widow who has opened an orphanage named after her deceased husband – convincingly and impressively, as did Zaal Chikobava, in the part of pastor Manders, her spiritual advisor. The latter had “urged” the woman to return to her husband, even though he was a great philanderer who never repented. But Mrs. Alving intends to deplete her husband’s wealth so that their son, Oswald (Kakha Kintsurashvili), will not inherit anything from him. She has a maid, Regina (Ana Tsereteli), with whom her son falls in love.
Mrs. Alving never dared to leave her husband because she was afraid of being shunned by the community, despite the unhappiness it caused her. Though the play is set in 19th century Norway, themes having to do with how married women suffer due to philandering remain socially relevant in Georgia and abroad today.
Indeed, life is extremely cruel to her – soon she discovers that her only son has inherited syphilis from his father and is tortured with pain. “Do I suffer because of my father’s sins?”Oswald utters, reminding the audience and Mrs. Alving of the wickedness of the father. She tries to stop her son from getting close to Regina, saying that she is simply not “the right one for him”.
At the end comes a twist: Regina is a Captain Alving’s illegitimate daughter, and thus Oswald’s half-sister. This is a great shock for the young man, who had thought that only this girl, so full of life, could save him from death and pain. He hates his mother for this revelation; however, this is a vicious circle and the main culprit is his deceased father, who tortures him and his mother, even from the grave. The play concludes with Mrs. Alving having to decide whether or not to euthanize her son Oswald in accordance with his wishes.
The play is called “Ghosts” because the woman cannot free herself from painful memories; she is captive of her husband’s phantom and his vengeance.
“This role has been my dream for 15 years, as I have thought of it since I was a sophomore,” Gogorishvili commented. “I did not have any problems of emancipation then, being too young for that. I think that we women should learn from this play, to be more outspoken. In Georgia, a lot of us are inclined to hide our feelings. In this way, they make violence toward our own selves and towards our children as well as to our surrounding environment. We are very happy that the performance is a success.”
Lasha Chartishvili, a theatre historian, thinks that the director lacks experience, but he has an original vision. Art historian Davit Bukhrikidze advises Charkviani that some irony would not be superfluous to render the performance more modernistic, even if it entailed taking liberties with the original text.
Ibsen’s “Ghosts” was staged by Temur Chkheidze in 1975 at the Marjanishvili Theatre. “I believe that Ibsen is unfairly forgotten by Georgian directors,” said Charkviani, a gifted director, despite his young age. “This is very vivid and topical. Ibsen is very popular in Germany where I was recently both as a director and as a tourist. It was not an easy task to fulfill but a very interesting one – here the flood of research materials never ends and one always makes discoveries.”
05 December, 2013