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Theatrical split in Abkhazia

The theatre management and artistic director don't see eye to eye

Photo: Sergei Demyanov, JAMnews

The leadership and staff of the main theatre in Abkhazia are divided. The reason for the split: the troupe’s trip to two festivals in Russia. The actors led by the art director brought awards back, but the theatre management was far from happy and asked the government of the republic to sort out the autonomy of part of the collective.

The conflict began with an invitation to Stage Without Borders, an international theatre festival which took place in Vladikavkaz (20-24 February). Theatre management stated that the Abkhazian State Drama Theatre was officially invited to perform the play “The House of Bernard Alba”, directed by Madina Argun. The Artistic Director, Valeri Kove, also received a similar invitation for performing “Walking” which is based on a piece by Kove himself.

Theatre management announced that the issue reached Abkhazian leadership because of the ‘non-standard situation that had arisen in the theatre due to two different invitations to one festival’. It was then decided that the Chanba Theatre would not be participating in the Stage Without Borders festival. Choosing one performance to send to the festival out of the two was impossible, even for the Ministry of Culture, so this was a sort of ‘Solomon’ decision by the government.

However, Artistic Director Valeri Kove found sponsors and took part of the troupe to Vladikavkaz on his own where they performed the first play. They then performed ‘Walking’ at another international theatre festival called “Southern Stage” which took place in Nalchik (24-27 February).

Management has declared that ‘the theatre’s official rehearsal and performance schedule has been canceled’, and asked the leadership of the republic to assess the matter.

Kove has been accused of causing the split by both the management and the artistic council.

Meanwhile, the plays staged by Valeri Kove at the two festivals received several awards, of which ‘Walking’ won the Grand Prix award at the Southern Stage festival.

Kove himself hasn’t commented on the matter. However, the theatre’s lead actor Kesou Hagba did: “Instead of drawing the theatre up to the level of mastery of one of the best directors in post-Soviet space, Valieri Kove, we are trying to lower Kove to our level.”

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