Puppet Power

THE BATTLE OF STALINGRAD: A REQUIEM (Republic of Georgia) written and directed by Rezo Gabriadze, with Vladimer Meltser, Ketevan Kobulia,.


THE BATTLE OF STALINGRAD: A REQUIEM (Republic of Georgia) written and directed by Rezo Gabriadze, with Vladimer Meltser, Ketevan Kobulia, Gaiane Taqaishvili, Tamara Amiredjibi and Badri Gvazava. Presented by Rezo Gabriadze Theatre-Studio at the du Maurier Theatre Centre. May 1-4, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm.

Rating: NNNNN

war, we know, is hell. in the bat-tle Of Stalingrad: A Requiem, Georgian theatre artist Rezo Gabriadze presents that concept in a marionette show.The battle of the title, a decisive event of the second world war, began in August 1942 and ended more than five months later. By the end, more than a million people had lost their lives, in part because Stalin refused to evacuate the city.

As puppeteers like Ronnie Burkett have shown, characters made of wood and string can deliver a powerfully human message. Gabriadze — also a filmmaker — builds on that fact in a show that not only encapsulates the horrors of the 1940s battle but also mirrors the Georgian civil war of the 1990s that forced him to leave his Tblisi home for several years.

The vignettes present human figures as well as a horse searching for his mate and an ant frantic about the loss of her child.

“By focusing on these characters, we say that not only an ant but the earth itself is a living organism,” says Gabriadze from his 100-seat theatre in Georgia. “If a human being thinks he has some advantages, it makes him even more responsible for the works of creation.”

Gabriadze’s sad-eyed, delicate puppets share the stage with some remarkably surreal, small-scale effects, among them a series of doll-like army helmets tramping forward to destruction and a dogfight involving skeletal airplane parts.

“My goal is to arouse in the audience the emotions I had during the creation of this piece,” says the Georgian artist, who was inspired to devise the show after discovering a war correspondent’s notes on the Stalingrad battle. “I can’t solve the world’s problems. But if I move the people who see the show, I’ve done a worthwhile thing. Tears generate tears.”

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