It’s a story about life and death, and there is nothing quite as alive as a puppet brought to life by expert puppeteers and nothing quite as dead when the puppeteers let go. There are joyful moments in this production which will thrill you and tragic moments which will leave you choking back your tears.
2. It is a love story set at a time of war. There is the love of a father for his child, the love of a friend for his friend, and the love of a man for a woman. Whether we identify with Iannis, Pelagia, Carlo or Corelli, there is something of all of us on stage – in particular the failure of our clumsy attempts to love one another as we are swept away by the tides of history.
There is no Hollywood romance here and only the faintest suggestion of a happy ending as Pelagia and Corelli confront each other after many long years of barren loneliness. But we can cheer the muddled father who only wants the best for his child, sympathise with the jealous lover who nurses his broken heart, and we can bow to the one moment of nobility when a man gives up his life for his friend.
3. The combination of live actors and puppets gives us an opportunity to tell a story that moves from the intimate to the epic. At one moment we witness the broad sweep of history as fascism gives way to communism, and the next moment we catch a glimpse of a young girl catching her face in the mirror.
The puppets, each manipulated by three puppeteers are the most expressive, the actors are human – all too human – and the great silks, flags, screens and castle move us onto a larger scale. Children, who may be more used to the vocabulary of puppetry may not be quite so amazed as an adult audience, but here we have puppetry for grown-ups which will stir in you a childlike wonder.
4. This co-production brings together two very different theatre traditions in a brave collaboration which promises to deliver more than the sum of its parts. To the Marjanishvili comes the Mercury Theatre Company of actors who are well versed in the literature of English drama. To the Mercury comes the Marjanishvili, one of the major thetare companies in Georgia.
Georgia is a small nation with fewer than four million people whose language is spoken by no-one else in the world, and yet it boasts a vibrant national theatre which has supported this small nation’s aspirations through the dark times of Soviet Communism, through the chaos of the corruption that followed the end of the USSR, through the recent war with Russia, up to today when the theatre speaks of their proud traditions and proclaims their freedom. The performances of Captain Corelli's Mandolin in Tblisi have been received with standing ovations.
5. This production is a faithful adaptation of the book which was a publishing sensation in the last decade of the twentieth century. It is my second adaptation and author Louis de Bernières said of the first (for story teller and musicians): “I’d rather see your show than that film any day.” It should not let down the many readers who will want to see this show and for those who have yet to read the novel, this adaptation should be a fine introduction.
Levan Tsuladze, the director, is a Georgian who knows the Cephalonian characters in de Bernieres’ novel inside-out. Levan, like many Georgians, shares with the Greeks an Orthodox Christianity, a great appetite for good food and drink and the love of a great story well told. And that is what we’ve got here – a great story, well told.