Knight in the Panther’s Skin, Retold in Theatrical Poetry


On February 11, the Kote Marjanishvili Theater played host to the long-awaited premiere of Knight in the Panther’s Skin.

Amiran Shalikashvili Senior, maestro, the first Georgian mime, who by his indelible works put his signature on the global theatrical calendar and changed the history of world pantomime, greeted the audience: “I know one thing: Rustaveli came from heaven to Earth. He is a man of God who left us wisdom the like of which I cannot find in world literature. I want to ask you to stand up and greet Shota Rustaveli, who has [at last] entered Georgian theater!”

The whole audience obeyed his appeal with a storm of applause.

The performance begins with the ringing of bells, symbolizing the importance of religion in Georgian history, which is not only about faith but also a part of our national identity and culture. The main motif of Rustaveli’s story is love, and so it is in the performance, too. The songs of romance are used like jewels from an ancient Georgian musical jewelry box. This is a weird journey back in time – nine centuries back. Then, Christmas carols follow, and against this pleasant background, the great maestro reads his famous aphorisms. It is shifted by dances, and becomes a separate musical story in itself, even if the text is not understandable for non-native speakers.

The theatrical story begins as the poem itself – King Rostevan did not have a son and therefore, Tinatin, his daughter, became king. This is the reflection of reality, when Tamar (usually known as King Tamar) became the first female ruler in Georgian history. Shota Rustaveli was her cotemporary royal poet who was hopelessly in love with the beautiful Queen. Tinatin’s prototype, Tamar’s beauty is praised to the utmost height and eloquence in Rustaveli’s tale.

One of the most impressive moments in the performance is how the protagonist Tariel (Amiran Shalikashvili Junior) runs, having been sent by his sweetheart Nestan-Darejan to fight and combat the enemy. This is an accumulated energetic run on-the-spot and then falling. Just then, a lion in the form of one of the actresses, who resembles the severe beast by her hair, emerges, with a roar. It is time for the courageous hero to fight the lion! And he wins! Irakli Bibiluri’s impressive plastic acting is also worth mentioning in the part of Nuradin-Pridon, Tariel’s devoted friend.              

Knitted costumes and curtains seek to make the scene even warmer and more Georgian, another form of poetry and story in theatrical verse, retelling the rhyme and rhythm of Georgia.

Amiran Shalikashvili Senior adapted the script together with Revaz Mishveladze, writer, whose “Squirrel in a Wheel” is presently nominated for a Nobel prize. The director calls his first and so far, the only theatrical version of Knight in the Panther’s Skin an experiment. Let’s wait for the reaction at the London International Mime Festival, which will see the performance in approximately a year’s time. Meanwhile, the genius encourages other directors to be courageous enough and stage the immortal poem, and invites all, particularly school-children, who are currently learning Rustaveli, to attend the performance, which is on the repertoire of Georgian State Pantomime Theater, in the very center of Tbilisi.    

As the culmination, Amiran Shalikashvili Senior himself emerged, a living legend, with golden beard and long white cape, a surprise for the audience – he was Shota Rustaveli himself, who died nine centuries ago as a young man, but who is and will always be alive in the form of a wise old man of all times.   

By Maka Lomadze

16 February 2017 18:12