The messenger logo

Theatre Director, actor and playwright Data Tavadze: “I don’t feel the need to work anywhere else other than the Royal District Theatre in Tbilisi”

By Gvantsa Turmanidze
Friday, December 14
Data Tavadze has been directing at the Royal District Theatre since 2008. “I’ve been working for more than 10 years with the actors of the Royal District Theatre, throughout these years we have acknowledged the true power of teamwork and created the number of successful performances together. I don’t feel the need to work anywhere else other than the Royal District Theatre in Tbilisi”, this is how the director expresses his commitment to this particular theatre, which eventually creates the atmosphere he needs for his performances. The only time he directed at another theatre in Tbilisi was in 2013 at Tbilisi Nodar Dumbadze Professional State Youth Theatre, where he staged William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale”.

Data underlines that he doesn’t direct new performances so frequently, but I still think 10 performances is a real success for this time length, noteworthy is that 2 of them were directed in Germany and now he is heading off there again for his third performance. Royal District Theatre has toured to different countries with Data’s performances, such as Belgium, Sweden and Germany. He has worked on some co-productions and educational programmes. For the past 5 years, Data has been giving lectures to the actors at Goteborg Academy, which is one of the best institutions for theatre, film and music. In parallel, he was already teaching at Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi Theatre and Film University starting from 2013. Soon he will also work at the Royal Conservatoire of Liege (RCL) in the French Community of Belgium, which is an ongoing project too.

Data talked about the importance of education and the differences between classical and free studio based tuition. Here he mentioned Temur Chkeidze Center for the Development of Contemporary Theatre, which is established on the basis of Royal District Theatre. “Our theatre is half repertoire based and half educational institution, we have two courses for directors and for scriptwriters, and in parallel, there are continuous practices with actors, where we try to apply different methods and forms, things we can do differently in the theatre. Scriptwriters and directors work together within 2 years, and along with theory, they do practical work also. All of this is done under Temur Chkheidze’s supervision. It is mainly based on studio work, not a classical type of education, this is why it is different from the university, it is a free working studio/space, where you have no obligations and the syllabus is developed according to the needs and interests of each participant, directors and scriptwriters”, explained Data. Royal District Theatre is a kind of meeting point for many like-minded people, who can get support to realize their ideas and stage their performances at the end of the course.

The director expressed his opinion on the ways and forms, which should be applied while teaching students about theatre. He thinks the method of teaching particularly with children should be reviewed in Georgia and worked out very carefully. “Children should work on finding themselves, they should be talking about children’s stories, stories of their personages, or invented heroes, which are very familiar for them. Theatre should be therapeutic and should help children to express their feelings, reconstruct their habits and exercise their skills. There are always models created in art, which we follow or don’t follow, children should have some examples, in order to identify themselves in particular characters, and to feel that they are not alone. There are many social, ethnic or sexual themes that concern or interest children and the environment can make them feel very lonely when facing so many differences. Therefore, we should be very careful in choosing what kind of information we deliver/show and also what we ask children to perform or act on stage, they should feel some kind of a compensation and freedom”.

Royal District Theatre has an important role in Data’s performances. He likes to use its unique atmosphere in his performances and always comes out from space by leaving it very simple, minimalist, with its real appearance and considering its characteristics, which creates a very special mood for everyone. “This type of space is very individual and often it is the space that offers the artist what to do or how to do in this space. I start with empty space and bring in slowly other elements, actors, requisites, colors. It is the place and the bodies for me, and how these bodies recreate the space. I like when everything in the theatre is based on imagination, the uniqueness of the theatre is that the most part of the performance is imagined by the audience. This is one of the values of this sphere, and maybe even fault, but for me, it’s rather a dignity, as it doesn’t happen in many other spheres. Theatre is one of the fields, which is created by the audience and its imagination. What I try to do is to change the space in the audience’s imagination, so the audience imagines that this is a different place, for example, we have to leave this imaginary space for the audience, for them to connect with the performance in the way they prefer”. “Theatre doesn’t reflect reality it should offer the concept of reality and this is when it will be true. This is where it plays with universal truth because the only truth in the theatre is that we tell our story, we know that this is not happening in reality and the only thing we can tell is truth and not reality”, added Data.

Q: Have you ever felt that you have to change something about your performance when it’s on for a long time?

A: This happens if the performance stops living. It dies, dies the necessity to talk about it, the actor says that it’s not relevant for him, and accordingly the contact with the audience stops also. And when the contact with the audience stops, this is where the theatre dies, the performance dies. Theatre is in present time, in front of us, it shouldn’t be in the past. For such reasons, I have stopped showing some performances. I have staged 8 performances in Georgia and stopped showing 4 of them out of my own will as I felt it wasn’t alive anymore. It is very difficult to renew the performance, it is better to direct a new one. What we can do as directors for the performance is 60%, the rest is between the actors and the audience. If the actors tell the story in a new way every day and evening, then it is alive, it is impossible to repeat what we do one day, we have to go through a process, not to offer a result of our work to the audience.

Q: What is your favorite performance which you staged?

A: I have a difficulty to answer this as there are some performances, which are connected with a very pleasant process but might be worse than some other performance, but I still love it as it was so pleasant to work on.

Q: How do you define if your performance was successful? And is a success a measurement for your favorite performance?

A: Sometimes the performances where I expressed very openly, they might be less successful, rather than those, where I was more busy with work and doing it as a duty. There are some performances where I talk about very important issues or the ones that are important but not for me personally. For example, the performance “Pain is Youth”, which I like very much, but for me, it is a classical type of performance, nothing new in this sense, I haven’t said anything new there, on which we could argue a lot, everything is acceptable. On the other side, there’s the performance “Prometheus”, which was dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of Independence, which caused a big dispute between the audiences, they have divided, some dislike/hate it, some like it very much. Here, I think I could tell something, there’s something to be argued. As it made a loud statement. So, success cannot measure my favorite performance. Tickets of some performances are sold out long before the starting date, but this doesn’t mean that this one is my favorite performance.

Q: Whose opinion is important for you about the performance?

A: Actors. The actor should be inspired by the role and the character he plays, or with the script and material, with what he has to say, or decoration, everything. Of course, we do everything for the actor to meet with the audience at the end. If the actor doesn’t believe in what he is doing and has doubts in all this, that this is important or interesting, the audience feels it and thinks the same. So for me, it is important to know what the actors think about the performance.

Q: Which of your performances was the most successful in this sense? When did you feel the best interaction between the actors and the audience? When the story was the closest to the audience?

A: I think “Women of Troy”. It was connected with personal experience, this is the best moment in Theatre when we watch a performance and have the feeling that something is happening with us and then we remember it as a personal experience. It’s like when you doubt whether it was a reality or a dream. This is how the theatre should affect, after some time you should associate your real feelings with the feelings you had in the theatre. When the feelings touch us and make us experience the same, this is when the theatre is alive. And I think, it is only in “Women of Troy” that I could create a true shared space, where you couldn’t differentiate between the audience and the actors, where they were on the same level, in one rhythm, in one tone, and had the dialogue, and the feelings were silently shared between them, without force. This is the best version, which happened in my practice. “Women of Troy” was performed in Germany, it toured in different cities and had many invitations. This performance is like a ticket for us into new spaces, which brought many good things for us, many prizes, lots of experience, it also brought many activities, it is thanks to this performance that I am directing in Germany, and that I was proposed to teach in different places, it had a real success.

In 2016, Royal District Theatre participated in the European Festival for Young Directors “Fast Forward” in Braunschweig and Data Tavadze was awarded the international jury prize for “Women of Troy”. One of the conditions of the festival involved making a proposal to the director of the winning performance to direct a performance in Germany. Soon after this, Data received a proposal from Dresden State Theatre, where he is going to stage Friedrich Schiller’s “Love and Intrigue”. The premiere will be held in February 2019. Right after this, Royal District Theatre will tour to Belgium, in the city of Liege, where they will have 4 performances and many other plans seem to be ahead. Meanwhile, we should look forward to some new performances in Georgia.