The Bard in the Panther’s Skin

In 2016, the entire world is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the repose of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare and numerous events are being held globally.

The British Council and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) have launched a campaign ‘Shakespeare Lives.’ One part of this is ‘Play Your Part; Share Your Shakespeare’ (see the introduction by Paul Smith, Director of the British Council USA on, the aim of which is to help 200,000 children worldwide get an education.

The campaign began on January 5th and has already attracted thousands of people wanting to participate in this priceless deed, the fact alone once again proving that Shakespeare still lives and will live on; his everlasting legacy will motivate people around the world to give a helping hand to others.

The British Council in Georgia joins the world to mark the date and to find out more GEORGIA TODAY met with Zaza Purtseladze, Director of the British Council in Georgia, and Maya Darchia, Arts Manager at the British Council.

Zaza, can you tell us about the campaign?
The British Council and the GREAT campaign began this global program to celebrate Shakespeare’s life and work in partnership with VSO. VSO is a UK-based charity organization working in the educational field and serves the mission that education be accessible for every child in the world.

Everyone knows who Shakespeare is but Play Your Part; Share Your Shakespeare aims for people to share their personal experience with Shakespeare and his works. Unfortunately, nowadays over 200,000 children lack education. Through the campaign, everyone will be able to make their own contribution to change this. We’re very glad that Georgian society has been actively taking part in the campaign.

Through our office, several videos have already been uploaded. We were very glad when Levan Berdzenishvili uploaded his own video where he talks about his experience with Shakespeare and calls on people to contribute to this valuable project. 18 pupils of Batumi English School, ETI-2000, participated in it.

I’d like to give my special thanks to the Marjanishvili and Professional State Youth Theatre for their active participation. We’ve planned about 12 projects in the framework of Shakespeare Lives. What’s more a very interesting educational resource has been created on the theme of Shakespeare, ‘Explore Language with Shakespeare,’ a free online course for English language learners.

Georgia is the 7th country among the world’s top countries which claims the most registration for this program. This again emphasizes how much Georgians love Shakespeare and how famous he is here and how great an interest in the English language we have.

Maya, how important is Georgia’s participation in the campaign and do you plan to carry out other projects?

Very important is the fact that Georgia is becoming an active participant in this big and global event and that it’s no longer an isolated country, as it was in Soviet times. Plenty of educational and artistic projects are planned.

Together with the Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography (Art Palace) director, Giorgi Kalandia, we are planning to make an exhibition showing how Shakespeare is reflected in Georgian art and, trust me, we have a huge heritage of this. When Victoria and Albert Museum representatives saw the posters depicting Shakespeare’s works in Georgia, they were impressed and surprised to see such a legacy in such a small country.

In the recently compiled ‘Presenting Shakespeare: 1100 Posters from Around the World,’ eight were chosen from the vast Georgian collection, from the thousands submitted worldwide, to be published in the compilation. Additionally, UNESCO announced 2016 as the Year of Rustaveli. The British Council has a very ambitious plan to link these two geniuses- Shakespeare and Rustaveli.

The British have an amazing attitude to cultural heritage and no-one has ever left such great a cultural heritage as Shakespeare. For the British, Shakespeare is still alive, still modern- he is not a frozen greatness that should be left untouched [as Rustaveli is here in Georgia].

Recently, a new video was released where young British popular rappers sang a song on a Shakespeare theme that I am sure will play an enormous role to bringing Shakespeare closer and making him more tangible to the young generation for whom Shakespeare might not be close due to his difficult and Old English.

In this case we can draw a parallel between the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe duet, which led to the increased popularity of opera among young people.

The British take care of the fact that even the youngest generation should know William Shakespeare. We should imitate them and start taking as much care of Rustaveli in order for him not to be an abstract, petrified and untouchable figure but loved and recognized by all, regardless of age.

Meri Taliashvili

21 January 2016 22:15