Georgian screenwriter, playwright, theatre and film director, visual artist and set designer. Rezo Gabriadze graduated from the Tbilisi State University (Department of Journalism) and earned an advanced degree in screenwriting and directing from the University of Moscow. He is the author of more than thirty motion picture screenplays.
In 1981, Gabriadze founded the Tbilisi Marionette Theatre. In his early shows he used string puppets for highly romantic and poetic pieces: Alfredo and Violetta (1981), based on Guiseppe Verdi’s La Traviata; Marshal de Fantier’s Diamond, or A Poem of Old Tbilisi, 1982). The first slight deviation from exclusively using marionettes was taken in The Emperor of Trebizond’s Daughter (1983) where he mixed different manipulation techniques with elements of live theatre. Later on he continued to experiment with various techniques, even reaching the point of giving up string puppets altogether in The Song of the Volga (1996).
Early on Rezo Gabriadze created his personal world where he mythologized Georgian urban folk culture incorporating its anecdotal characters into actual world history and introducing animals (including birds) as the lyrical author’s alter egos. Most important, however, is his use of cinematic techniques as a structural organizing principle: episodic structure, close-ups, panoramic views, pre-recorded soundtracks of famous screen actors lending their voices to the characters.
Rezo Gabriadze is also a creator of theatrical metaphors. In The Song of the Volga, for example, a spinning bucket of steaming water with small squares as windows stands for a train evacuating war refugees. This production, along with the earlier The Autumn of Our Spring (1985, awarded The State Prize of the USSR), became true puppet epics in which innocent “little people” (or “little animals”, to be precise) were unwilling participants of the tragic turns of human history, testing humanity itself. These epics, it must be noted, just like popular epic films, took the art of puppetry out of its generic boundaries into the space of popular entertainment, understood and hailed by wide audiences throughout the world.
In 1994-1995, Rezo Gabriadze was the artistic director of the Gosudarstvenny Akademichesky Tsentralny Teatr Kukol imeni S.V. Obraztsova (Sergei Obraztsov State Academic Central Puppet Theatre), which he called a “Titanic that he was picked to steer” and where he did not complete any productions. During this time he instead prepared an exhibition of miniature porcelain sculptures and wrote The Song of the Volga, an epic which turned out to be too “small” for the Obraztsov stage and company and later opened in Saint Petersburg.
Gabriadze’s undisputed achievement was that he rehabilitated the string puppet, disliked and repressed by Sergei Obraztsov and used elsewhere in Russia only in the parody and caricature repertoire.
In 2002, Gabriadze restored the Tbilisi Marionette Theatre where he staged The Song of the Volga (under the new title The Battle of Stalingrad: A Requiem) and The Autumn of Our Spring.
Rezo Gabriadze organized several solo museum shows of miniature sculptures and paintings. He also created a number of drama productions in various European theatres with such celebrities as Mikhail Baryshnikov (Forbidden Christmas, or The Doctor and the Patient) and Natasha Parry (Quelle tristesse, la fin de l’allée) serving as actors. His marionette shows have participated in such non-puppetry theatre festivals as Edinburgh, Avignon, and New York. He also created several urban monuments, including those to Gogol’s Nose and a Little Siskin, the popular Russian 19th century comic folk song character.
- Dmitrevskaia, Marina. “Rezo”. Puck. No. 11. Charleville-Mézières: Éditions de l’Institut international de la marionnette, 1998.
- Gabriadzé, Rézo. “Le théâtre de marionnettes de Tbilissi” [The Marionette Theatre of Tibilisi]. Puck. No. 11. Charleville-Mézières: Éditions de l’Institut international de la marionnette, 1998.
- Gogoberidze, Irène. “Rezo Gabriadzé en esquisse discrete”. Mû, l’autre continent du théâtre. No. 8. Paris: THEMAA, 1997.