Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA Baku
The entire cultural community of the city has been impatiently waiting for this day when the Baku Marionette Theatre finds its "permanent residence" at the Office of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve Icheri Sheher. Thanks to the special support of the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva, the puppets have their own house situated in a lovely mansion on 20 Muslim Magomayev Str. At the entrance, you can see a logo of the theater, stylized antique doors and behind the door – a wonderful world of harmony and continuous creativity.
The mystery of Art
A small but atmospheric lobby of the theater, a cozy inside cafe have everything for a leisurely conversation about the theater. It would be a total blasphemy to talk about everyday thins here but arts. It is impossible to call the second floor a regular office although it is the very place, where a few employees are working. A cursory look at them make you realize that these people too are doing something creative. Arts is truly soaring in the space of this wonderful mansion, infecting everyone who lives in this house, indestructible love for the common cause, elated and instilling confidence in the future.
Between the second and third floor, there are shops - the holy of holies of the theater. The dolls are born here; the characters of future performances. This space is not limited to the walls in the usual sense of the word. Everything is under the light here: artificial barriers do not restrict the view. On the contrary, you have a prospect, which is filled with artistic details, organizing a unique sense of belonging to the mystery of Art. The spectators, who will climb the stairs to the second floor, see the space before they reach the auditorium, and it also gives an additional sense of belonging to a special world of creativity.
This architecturally designed "Action" in the space of the theater prior to entering into the auditorium - a wonderful discovery of the authors of the architectural project. The space is magnetically attracted to the first steps in the theater and does not let go until the moment when you leave it.
And finally, the third floor. This is an auditorium for 49 seats with comfortable seating. The scene is made in a traditional Aristotelian box. The place where a team of twelve actors and their dolls merge into a single entity giving the illusion of being artistic. Most recently, Leyli and Majnun was performed on this stage for the first time. The premiere was attended by President Ilham Aliyev and the First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.
The fourth floor is a place for social gatherings and discussions. This is a fantastically beautiful space: visible through the glass panorama of Baku, which takes into captivity their inexpressible beauty, creating a sense of nicely aligned scenery. And it gives an extra emotional wave, reinforcing the impression received from the performance.
The historians claim that the first theatrical puppet shows appeared in ancient Egypt and only then in ancient Rome and Greece. However, the country of origin is still considered to be Italy. Following this success, the dolls have gained loved first in France, and only then in other European countries. However, this does not mean that the puppet dolls were unavailable in the East. But without delving into the historical past, the puppets of Baku born in fantasies of director of the theater Tarlan Gorchu have their own character going back to antiquity. He developed the sketches in the style of paintings of the Qajar period, and the dolls have found their individual look. In general, work on the creation of dolls - this process is not only exciting, but also time-consuming. On the creation of the doll on the design of four people working - carver and master mechanics, painting and costume. The process is gradual and therefore takes time. The end result of the efforts of many people and then we see on stage. In addition - the scenery. They, too, are made for a long time, according to individual sketches of Tarlan Gorchu, and also take some time until ready. Not only to determine what they are and what the meaning of the coded picture, importantly, what will be the texture of the material from which executed the scenery. And yet - the tissue from which sewed costumes for the characters. They are also easy to pick up. After all the parameters of the dolls cannot be compared with the texture of a living human body, so it is necessary to take into account everything - down to the drawing, which is a different look on the man and on the doll. In the search could take months. And if a regular theater performance takes an average of 3 months, the puppet theater delays for years. Therefore, the performances usually take 3-4 years.
The concept and repertoire
The repertoire of the Baku Marionette Theatre includes two performances for now: Arshin mal alan and Leyli and Majnun. Both performances are based on the imperishable works of Uzeyir Hajibeyov: different in style and staging artistic embodiment. In future, the theatre plans to stage If not that one, then this one. Because the concept of the theater is the popularization of Uzeyir Hajibeyov’s creativity.
Actors performing Leyli and Majnun interact with dolls in original way. More precisely, unconventionally. The puppeteers throughout the work act with dolls, moving across the stage on their knees. It's hard to imagine, but the fact remains that for 55 minutes while there is action, they move around the stage on their knees. When you see this, you start to realize how the movements were thought and verified in advance by the director. The organic body movements and dynamics of performance can be studied analytically. But almost mystical fusion is the organic combination of dolls and actors. When at the climax of performance actress Fariza Babayev takes the doll in her arms, there is a feeling that she takes not a doll at all but inconsolable child. It takes to comfort and protect against pain. And Leyli’s doll trustingly clings to the actress as her mother. In general, the nature of the Baku Marionette Theater requires further careful study. And yet - popularization. Because here and now comes the phenomenal art, having a national voice. Not everyone is able to understand and "read" the coded message poster hall. And it is in pictures of scenery, plastic actors, puppets and actors interacting, the light of the performance score, the costumes of the characters and the actors, said in his interview with R+ Tarlan Gorchu. It is necessary to invite students to the theater, as well as the specialists to help the viewer find the theater as a new kind of theater. New, because for many years, as we wrote in our last R+ publications, the puppet theater remained inaccessible. And now, when the puppets have found such a wonderful house, they need friends and spectators: those who understand and know how to appreciate the achievements of national art.
Incidentally, there are not so many puppet theatres in the world. There is one in Georgia headed by the legendary director and playwright Rezo Gabriadze, the second one is in Baku. In Europe, they too can be counted on one hand: theaters, not individual concert numbers using puppet. And that's why every one of us had an opportunity to touch something unique.