Gift Festival Week 3: Italy Comes to Tbilisi


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This week at the Gift Festival we celebrated all things Italian. Our Italian Focus opened on Friday 2nd Nov with a presentation on contemporary Italian Theatre, ‘Rispondi Al Futuro’, held by Michele Panella. The talk was surprisingly well attended, with people spilling out of the door! During the talk we heard from Tenore Murales, a group of five Sardinian singers, who bought their unique form of polyphony to the festival.

That evening Sardegna Teatro’s Macbettu opened at the Rustaveli theatre. Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth, performed in Sardinian, with Italian and Georgian subtitles. It was an outstanding piece of theatre, weaving rituals of ancient Sardinian traditions in with the medieval Scottish play. At the end, the performers got an instant standing ovation from the whole theatre.IMG_1415

This week I also spent a lot of time at the International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony, that was taking place at the State Conservatoire. Now in its Ninth year, the symposium brings together singers and musicologists from all over the world for five days of concerts, lectures, film screenings and plenty of impromptu singing. I was in my element! Tenore Murales sang at their closing concert on Saturday evening, along with plenty of Georgian and international ensembles.


Tenore Murales at the State Conservatoire ©Ilia Baburashvili

And the fun wasn’t over yet. On Sunday I helped organise the Gift Festival folk party and craft fair at Vineria, our festival club. Local artists bought their beautiful pieces to sell, and the space was filled with singing. We were treated to more songs from Tenore Murales, and Tbilisi ensembles Ialoni and Adilei. Many of the singers attending the symposium came along, so there was plenty of spontaneous singing too! We even celebrated the birthday of Ialoni’s Shorena, by singing a big georgian happy birthday.


Tenore Murales at Vineria ©Ilia Baburashvili

After the party we headed to the Amirani cinema to watch La Stoffa Dei Sogni (The Stuff of Dreams), a wonderful Italian film set on a sardinian prison island. A shipwreck brings a troupe of actors and a band of criminals to the island, and a shakespeare-esque farce ensues. The setting of the film was beautiful, and it felt like we were watching lots of shakespeare plays at once, all tangled together in an intricate web. For once I could understand what was going on, thanks to the English subtitles! It was the perfect end to a wonderfully hectic week.

42891230_1189344277863935_6937663684000874496_nThis week wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support of the Italian Ambassador HE Antonio Enrico Bartoli and his wonderful team. What a triumph! We all celebrated last night at his residence with the most delicious Italian food, and, you guessed it, more singing.


The Gift team celebrate the Italian Focus with Tenore Murales, the Italian Embassy, and Adilei Ensemble. 

I’m really excited about next week’s events at the festival. We’ve got a trio of fabulous productions to finish off the month. Our Norwegian Focus continues with Winter Guests, bringing their kabuki-flamenco mash-up Simulacrum; and the Ingri Fiksdal Company, bringing their anthropological dance-concert, State. Last but not least, Hofesh Schecter Company from the UK bring their dance piece Show (The Entrance. Clowns. Exit.). No more language barriers for me! And I have a feeling all three of these pieces are going to be fascinating and exciting. Tickets for all these shows can be bought online at

For more information visit the Gift Festival Facebook page or pick up a programme at Prospero’s book store.

Holly xxx


Macbettu: A Beautiful Cacophony


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Sardegna Teatro’s Macbettu opens in pitch darkness. A deep rumble begins somewhere in the auditorium and grows so that soon the audience are plunged into what can only be described as an eerie and overwhelming sound bath. Even the Georgian audience (not known for their quiet ways) are shaken to silence in this moment. This is just one of many ways the company create live sound effects, using their versatile stage set of four metal boards. Throughout the piece they are used, among other things, as tables, fortresses, and instruments.


Playing at Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Theatre, Macbettu is part of this year’s Gift Festival Italian Focus, specifically celebrating Sardinian Culture. Performed in Sardinian, a language which UNESCO classifies as endangered, the piece brings elements of traditional sardinian rituals to the medieval scottish play. The Italian and Georgian surtitles meant nothing to me, so it was a blessing that this production was a multi-sensory experience, which I could appreciate without understanding the language. In fact, I did appreciate the language; the tone and the rhythm was a beautiful thing to listen to and fit the piece well.

Darkness pervades the entire piece, with figures appearing and disappearing seemingly from nowhere. Images start out as vague shapes to the audience’s eye, and gradually become clearer. The whole thing is at once a magic trick, a playground game and a lucid dream.

The games are played by the witches, frantic-paced little creatures, who fill the space with vocal cacophony. The comedy and playfulness that these characters bring to an otherwise dark 1 hour 45 minutes showcases the performer’s mastery of physical timing and discipline.

IMG_2488When watching the piece I experienced so many different physical sensations, it could almost be described as immersive. In a feast scene, the visceral sound of metal scraping on metal made my whole body tense up. I know it’s not a pleasant sound for anyone, but for me it is like some kind of torture, and I can’t let go of this feeling until I experience some extremely satisfying sound or texture. And director Alessandro Serra provided that: after the torture came the lovely, pleasing sound of crunching dry crispy matze bread under foot. I didn’t need any words to understand the emotional context of that scene.

When I read about Sardegna Teatret’s production of Macbeth, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. Firstly, it’s Shakespeare (not always my vibe), secondly it’s in a foreign language, and thirdly with an all male cast. None of these things were exciting my personal tastes, especially as it’s the third show of this week’s Gift Festival in a language I don’t understand. But yet again, I was pleasantly surprised. This festival is teaching me the power of sitting back, letting go, and basking in the uncertainty of theatre in a foreign language.

45046217_1207978686000494_8183458977300873216_nTickets for tonight’s final performance are available here.

The week I had no idea what was going on: Gift Festival Week 2 Summary


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This week at the festival we welcomed the renowned Russian director Dmitry Krymov, who bought his production of the classic Russian play Bezpridannitsa (Without a Dowry) to the Rustaveli theatre, performed by students of the Moscow Theatre “School of Dramatic Arts”.


Bezpridannitsa (Without a Dowry) by Alexander Ostrovsky. Photo by Salome Grigalashvili.

Apparently this is a play that every Russian kid has to study at school, but coming from England, I had never heard of it, so wasn’t sure what to expect. If I’m completely honest I was not looking forward to watching a play in a language I don’t understand for nearly three hours, even though I had heard it had won a lot of awards. But I was pleasantly surprised. Thankfully language was just one of the many elements that made up this incredible production. It was a beautiful example of theatrical parataxis, or as Hans-Thies Lehmann describes it, “the de-hierarchization of theatrical means”. As a non-Russian speaker, I was very grateful for this! Krymov used video projection, music, song, costume, and a well-timed wind machine to tell the story as well as words. And as you would expect from a Russian laboratory theatre, the actors physicality and expression were flawless. Overall, I enjoyed the show, even though I didn’t have a grasp on the story.


Ironing costumes backstage at the Rustaveli Theatre

As I can’t speak Russian, I wouldn’t have made a very good guide for the Russian artists, so my role this week has involved ironing costumes for the production, and just being a general dogs body, or as they say in German ‘springer’ (jumper). I think I prefer the German phrase.

On Monday I was also put to the test of watching theatre in a foreign language, but this time in Georgian. Keely and Du, written by American playwright Jane Martin in the 80s, was translated into Georgian and directed by Gift’s own Artistic Director Keti Dolidze. Performed in the Liberty Theatre, the piece concerned itself with the contentious issues of rape, abortion, religion and suicide. Though it may not sound like the cheeriest way to spend a Monday evening, the piece skillfully negotiated the emotional topics. It’s sad and frustrating that, though written thirty years ago in America, this play is still relevant today, in any country. It was certainly a brave choice to programme the play here in Georgia and at this time, and I think the audience appreciated that.


Keely and Du (Photo by Photolex)

Basically, this week at the festival reflects most of my time in Georgia, in that I have no idea what is going on, but at the same time I’m very happy.


42687665_1186345111497185_6111436392863105024_oI have to say this coming week is more my forté, and it’s going to be a super busy one. On Friday we open the festival’s Italian Focus, with Sardinian Culture Days. The opening session, Rispondi Al Futuro, will be a discussion on contemporary Italian Theatre, held at the Rustaveli Theatre at 2pm on Friday 2nd. Then we are welcoming Sardegna Teatro all the way from Sardinia, to the Rustaveli Theatre. On Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd, they will perform Macbettu, their version of Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth with a twist: it’s performed in Sardinian, with Italian and Georgian subtitles. For audience members who don’t speak any of those languages, I think our universal knowledge of the story line will help us through (but maybe google the synopsis beforehand to be sure). Alongside all this, I’m going to be attending as much as I can of the International Symposium on Polyphony, at the State Conservatoire, running until Saturday 3rd. I’m so excited to be surrounded by singers from all over the world, and reunited with friends who will sing Georgian polyphony with me! Look out for the closing concert on the 3rd, which includes Tenore Murales, singing polyphony from Sardinia. And just in case there wasn’t enough singing this week, on Sunday 4th, the Gift Festival is hosting a folk party at Vineria (our festival club) from 12pm-6pm. There’s going to be some absolute gems of singing there, including Tenore Murales from Sardinia, Ialoni and Adilei from Georgia, and maybe even yours truly with some of my singing mates! And if you STILL haven’t had enough, we’re screening an Italian film in the evening of 4th, called La Stoffa Dei Sogni (The Cloth of Dreams) at the Amirani Cinema. Hope to see you at any/all of these wonderful events!42891230_1189344277863935_6937663684000874496_n

For a full schedule of the month’s events, pick up a programme in Prospero’s book store, or visit the GIFT Festival Facebook page.

Love, Holly xxx

And now for something completely different: Week 2 of the GIFT Festival


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We had a lot of excitement last week, what with welcoming the international collective The Krumple, performing Yokai at the Royal District Theatre, and a homegrown production from the Movement Theatre, Astigmatists: a silent-movie style physical comedy performed by a talented cast of five.


A family who sees the world differently. Astigmatists at the Movement Theatre.


And now, in the second week of the festival, we welcome Charles Landry, a British author and international advisor on the subject of creative cities. In just a few hours he will give a talk for invited professionals at the Tbilisi City Assembly on the Art of City Making, in association with the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA).


Welcome to Tbilisi, Charles Landry!

That’s all for now,

Holly xxx

Sweet Goodbyes, and what’s next…


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Post-show happiness

Well folks, The Krumple have left the building. In fact, they’ve left the country! 😥 Early this morning, they flew out of Tbilisi airport, after finishing their run at the Royal District Theatre last night, and packing away all of their intricate set and props. I’m sad to see them go, they were a great bunch, but hopefully I will see them again somewhere in the future. They’re launching straight into development of their new show in Norway on Monday. No rest for the wicked 😉


The long pack down of the show

So after all the excitement of Yokai, it’s time for GIFT to turn towards our next production – and it’s happening TONIGHT! The wonderfully eccentric Movement Theatre will play host to Astigmatists, a silent-movie style piece of physical theatre. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!


Astigmatists, Tonight at 8pm at the Movement Theatre

Finally, for those who want to get their hands on a copy of the festival program, they will be available in Prospero’s book store from tomorrow. Get them while they’re hot!

That’s all for now,

Holly xxx

The GIFT Festival officially opens


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Well, yesterday was fun! I spent the afternoon on the hunt for props for The Krumple. Without giving away spoilers, they needed a green soup or smoothie for their show Yokai, which opened the festival last night at the Royal District Theatre. It turns out, neither smoothies nor thick soups are popular in Tbilisi, so I ended up getting a jar of guacamole and a packet of noodle soup! Thankfully it worked for them, though one of the actors said she was baffled by the smell of guacamole in one of the scenes.

At 5pm I joined the GIFT Team at Vineria, who were working hard to get the place ready for all the guests. The space looked spectacular; it’s an underground treasure trove of wines, and the perfect setting for the grand opening of the festival. At 6pm, we welcomed the esteemed guests, which included the Norwegian ambassador and his team from Baku, as well as the Japanese, French and Brazilian ambassadors, and the Georgian minister of culture. After a welcoming speech from Keti Dolidze, Artistic Director of the festival, we were treated to a performance from Royal Giraffe, an Estonian circus troupe, with stunning costumes and mysterious choreography.

After a reception of delicious wine and food, we headed to the Royal District Theatre, for the next treat of the evening, Yokai. It was an exceptionally beautiful piece, and showcased the artists physical talent and imaginations wonderfully. They captured the audience with intricate object manipulation, and interweaving storylines. Tickets are still available for tonight’s performance here.

Following the show, we went back to Vineria, the festival club, for a post show celebration. The food was outstanding and so was the wine. I think their amber wine is the best I’ve ever tasted! A good time was had by all, and I can’t wait to watch Yokai again tonight – I think it will be even better the second time round. I’ve got to go now, as I’m meeting the cast to take them on the cable car up to see the Mother of Georgia!

Holly xxx


Today’s the day!


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Well gifters,

Today’s the day, the sun is shining, the theatre is clean… and we’re ready to go.

All the planning, negotiating, organising, and dreaming will come together this evening as we officially open the 2018 Georgian International Festival of Arts in Tbilisi, at the spectacular Vineria club. After the reception, we will head to the Royal District Theatre to watch Yokai, A Remedy for Despair, performed by our friends The Krumple.


Yokai, A Remedy for Despair

The events today are by invitation only, and tomorrow the show opens to the public. You can book your tickets here.

If you’re here in Tbilisi, you can see that even the weather is excited for us. As I sit and write this, warm sunlight streaming in through my balcony, I can’t help but feel this will be a wonderful day.

See you all soon!

Holly xxx

1 day to go!


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Hello gifters,


It’s T – minus 1 day until the GIFT Festival 2018 launches. We open with the award winning YOKAI, a remedy for despair, bought to Tbilisi by The Krumple, an international collective of artists, all graduates of the Lecoq school in Paris.  You can buy your tickets for Friday night at the Royal District Theatre here.

If you’re still not sure whether to spend your Friday evening with us, take a look at what Ketty Apter of The Scotsman said about the show “…A masterclass in physical storytelling… Funny, clever, surreal and visually striking, this imaginative new show from The Krumple is a gift that keeps on giving… The stories themselves are engaging, but it is the method in which they are told that gives YOKAI its gold star. Words are redundant in the face of such astute movement and razor-sharp timing.”


The cast of Yokai in the Royal District Theatre


We’ve already had the pleasure of welcoming the company (Jo Even, Louisa, Oda, Léna, David, and Vincent) to Tbilisi, and showing them some of the sights, including the famous sulphur baths. Now that they are fully relaxed and refreshed, today they are working hard in the theatre to open the show tomorrow.


Straight from Oxford, England


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Hello everyo24254859_1276320655847614_3992941234043356599_o (1)ne, and welcome to the first blog post of this year’s GIFT Festival! It’s just 3 days to go until we open – and I can’t wait for the chaos to begin. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Holly and I’ve come from England to work at the GIFT Festival in Tbilisi. If you follow the GIFT Facebook or Instagram pages, you’ve probably been seeing some of my posts in the last few weeks (if not, what are you doing?! Go follow us now for excellent content on your social media stream 😉 ). I’m so happy to be here, working for this extraordinary organisation; Sophie and the GIFT team have welcomed me like family. So, I thought I’d say a bit about how I got here.


I had to ‘pop back’ from Georgia to London for my graduation ceremony!

I guess the story really starts at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, the London drama school that I graduated from this summer, with a BA (Hons) in European Theatre Arts. The programme offers an alternative performer training, with influences from contemporary European practitioners such as Jaques Lecoq, Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Grotowski. While on the course, I had the opportunity to go on an Erasmus placement to Poland, to train at the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices for two months. While there, I was introduced to Georgian Polyphonic Singing. It was like nothing I’d heard before, and I soon became obsessed, and decided I wanted to travel to this magical land of song.


The opportunity presented itself sooner than expected, and, with the support of Rose Bruford, last summer I came to Georgia for the first time. I travelled around the west of the country, with folk ensemble Sakhioba, learning songs from each region, staying with wonderful hosts and eating the amazing food. It’s not an exaggeration to say that coming to Georgia changed my life, and soon I decided that I wanted to research the singing further.


On the Joyous Host Tour in Guria

For my practical dissertation back at Rose Bruford, I created a 20 minute performance based on the research question ‘An investigation into Georgian Polyphonic singing in relation to gender constructs with reference to notions of play’. This was research through practice, a piece of song-theatre performed with a cast of seven, called Supra, and I read a ten minute seminar paper detailing my research afterwards.


Supra, performed in London in May 2018 (photo by Michael O’Reilly)

After this, the college offered me the opportunity of an erasmus placement in Georgia. The catch? It had to be for minimum three months. I hesitated, not knowing a) if I could leave my life in England behind and b) if I could find three months worth of things to occupy me in Georgia. I run a theatre company in the UK called Planet B Productions (yes that’s a cheeky plug), and I worried about leaving it behind. Luckily, my two co-directors are amazing, and (along with most of my friends and family) told me to ‘Go! For f*** sake, go!’.


Flyering with Living House Theatre on the Royal Mile (photo by Darius McFarlane)

So, I listened to them, and started to compile a plan: Go to Georgia, go on Ialoni‘s singing tour to Racha, find a job at the GIFT Festival, and attend the International Symposium on Polyphony in Tbilisi. I booked my flight while at the Edinburgh Fringe (performing with another company I am part of, Living House Theatre (so many plugs I’m sorry)), and a week later, I was flying to Tbilisi. On my first day in Tbilisi, I asked the Ialoni girls if any of them knew anything about the GIFT Festival, and the lovely Bako Tamar said that her very close friend Sophie, was the producer! Georgia is a small place, but still, that was damn lucky.

The next day, I’m meeting Sophie, who is, and I quote “flabbergasted” to meet an English girl who wants to work for her. She welcomes me to the team with open arms, and gives me my first job of editing the English language programme copy.


In the village of Glola, Racha

In the next few weeks, I travel to the dreamy Racha, learn wonderful songs, eat delicious food, meet the most amazing people, and see some awesome mountains. Your standard Georgian magical experiences! Eventually I make it back to Tbilisi, and continue my work for GIFT, now as social media assistant. I’m looking forward to looking after all the artists during the festival. And now, after nearly 2 months in this wonderful country, I can say I’m starting to feel at home. If you’ve made it this far, well done, you deserve a sticker. I’ll try to keep the blog up to date, and I hope that I’ll meet you all at the festival!

Love and hugs, Holly xxx





ფესტივალი “საჩუქარი” 2018 წლის პროგრამით ბრუნდება!

მოხარული ვართ მოგახსენოთ, რომ მიხეილ თუმანიშვილის სახელობის ხელოვნების საერთაშორისო ფესტივალი დაარსებიდან 21-ე წელს, 2018 წლის 21 მარტს, საქართველოს სამოქალაქო კოდექსის თანახმად, ახალ, დამოუკიდებელ იურიდიულ პირად დარეგისტრირდა და საქართველოს სახელმწიფოს სრული მხარდაჭერით, თავის ერთგულ მაყურებელს განახლებული ძალებით უბრუნდება!
18 ოქტომბრიდან -16 ნოემბრამდე ევროპის ახალი გეოგრაფიული სექტორის აღმოჩენითა და დათვალიერებით, ფესტივალი „საჩუქარი“ ქართველ მაყურებელს სრულიად მოულოდნელ დრამატურგიას სთავაზობს და 2018 წლის პროგრამით იშვიათ სანახაობას ჰპირდება. ჩვენს ფესტივალზე მოხვედრის ინტერესი ფენომენალურ მაშტაბს იღებს და 2020 წლამდე „საჩუქარი“-ს პროგრამა პრაქტიკულად დაბრონილია.
წელს კი ერთი თვის მანძილზე, ბოლო წლების საუკეთესო წარმოდგენებით, 2018 წლის მსოფლიო პრემიერებით, ფესტივალი ცეკვის, დრამატურგიის, ლიტერატურის, სასცენო მხატვრობის საერთაშორისო ფორუმს თბილისში გადმოიტანს და ჩვენს საყვარელ მაყურებელს და მხარდამჭერს მსოფლიო კულტურულ თანამეგრობაში ჩართავს.
ფესტივალი კვლავაც განაგრძობს ქართული კულტურის პოპულარიზაციას საერთაშორისო მაშტაბით და ქართული სახელოვნებო ასპარეზის საერთაშორისოდ ქცევას მსოფლიო მაყურებლისთვის: პროფესიონალი ხელოვანებისათვის, პროდუსერებისთვის, ფართო მას-მედიისთვის თუ კულტურის ანტრეპრენიორებისთვის. უპირველეს ყოვლისა კი მისცემს სულიერ, ინტელექტუალურ და ესთეტიურ საზრდოს საქართველოს მოქალაქეებს, როგორც ჩვენი მომავალი წარმატების მთავარ აქტივს.
შეგახსენებთ, მიხეილ თუმანიშვილის სახელობის ხელოვნების საერთაშორისო ფესტივალი „საჩუქარი“ 1997 წელს დაფუძნდა საქართველოში, ქართული სახელმწიფოს, საერთაშორისო დირექტორატის საბჭოს და ქალბატონი ქეთი დოლიძის მიერ. იგი პირველი საერთაშორისო ხელოვნების ფესტივალია, საქართველოს სახელმწიფოებრივი დამოუკიდებლობის აღდგენის შემდეგ (1991), რომელიც ყოველწლიურად იმართება და ბოლო წლების მსოფლიო პრემიერებით თეატრის, ცეკვის, დრამატურგიის, ლიტერატურის, სასცენო მხატვრობის საერთაშორისო ფორუმს მასპინძლობს თბილისში.
ფესტივალი „საჩუქარი“ საქართველოს სამოქალაქო კოდექსის თანახმად, დამოუკიდებელი არასამეწარმეო (არაკომერციული) იურიდიული პირია და საქართველოს სახელმწიფოს სრული მხარდაჭერით სარგებლობს. იგი საერთაშორისო დირექტორატის მიერ იმართება: ფესტივალის საერთაშორისო დირექტორატის წევრებთან კონსულტაციების შედეგად წყდება ფესტივალის პროგრამა, რომლის სამხატვრო ხელმძღვანელი და პასუხისმგებელია ქალბატონი ქეთი დოლიძე.
შემოგვიერდით! ფესტივალი „საჩუქარი“ ბრუნდება!