PLAY – 2nd Tbilisi Triennial (2015)

PLAY for the 2nd Tbilisi Triennial

For the 2nd Tbilisi Triennial Mareike designed different performative and artistic formats with the people of Machkhaani (Kakheti/Georgia) to revive and reopen their old theatre.

Machkhaani once a cultural hub in Western Georgia is today suffering like many villages in the Georgian regions from rural flight. With little perspective and for the younger generations, many decide or are forced to leave for the cities. Cultural offers are scarce, cultural centres and youth clubs don’t exist anymore and many buildings are abandoned.

The old theatre in Machkhaani  had always been the heartof the village and a place of and for the people of Machkhaani, founded and build on their own initiative at the turn of the last century. Now it stands empty in the centre of the village. The people of Machkhaani still care for their theatre and miss the times it was functioning first as a theatre then later in Soviet times as a cinema and culture club, but they are lacking the means to sustain it.

With the project PLAY, Mareike wanted to create a new vision for the theatre together with the people of Machkhaani. For her it was very important not to put something from the outside onto them but to really create and work together to show different options how the theatre can be turned into a place of village life, arts, meeting and exchange again.

For several months Mareike was conducting interviews with the local people, running , theatre, writing and arts workshops with the children and young people and recording the memories of the older generation about the theatre. Based on this work she created an interactive performance, set up and exhibition and immersive installation.

Together with artists, performers and also students from Machkhaani an interim administration for the village Machkhaani is etablished with its headquarter in the old theatre.
The task of this fictional administration is to set up a database of memories, wishes and also skills of the citizens of Machkhaani, in order to create new networks and collectives and to revive the old spirit of the village, which once used to be a cultural hotspot for the region.

For the opening on the 10th of October Mareike devised a performance with students from Machkhaani. They created their own version of “Romeo and Juliet” telling the story from their perspective and set in Machkhaani. They transfered Shakespeare’s story into the here and now of Machkhaani telling about the girls being married before they can finish school, young people leaving the village to study in Tbilisi, fights on the market place, disappearing balconies and pharmacies, first kisses and the every-day life in Machkhaani.

This project also led to establishing AITSONA DAITSONA. In 2017 Mareike founded the NGO together with Mariam Gabritchidze, Lili Mamulashvili and Natia Kavtaradze to bring theatre for children to the regions of Georgia and promote theatre in education.

Part of the sound-installation and interviews can be listened to here:


More details about the different parts of the project can be found in the photo documentation below.

Short report by Rustavi 2 about the project:

Pictures of the performance and the opening day. Together with a group school students, Mareike devised a performance based on Romeo and Juliet. The student’s taking the audience through the village telling them what would have happened if Shakespeare’s story had taken place in Machkaani. They were talking about the difficulties the couple would have had to do the balcony scene, as many of the balconies fell victim to the expansion of the main road, about girls from the village not returning to school after being forced into marriage like Juliet in Shakespeare’s play, the brawls on the main square, first kisses and what it is like growing up in Machkhaani.

When the young people of the village were asked what they really want to have in Machkhaani, they answered: “A cafe and a library”. So together we created a cafe and asked visitors from Tbilisi to bring books as a present for the new library.

In the memory room next to the stage interviews with people of Machkhaani and their memories of theatre could be listened to, while watching old films once screened in the theatre.

Under the stage a “casino” was set up with lottery, card games and horse betting and of course “chacha” bar, referring to the memories of people from Machkhaani who told us about a fake lottery that was going on when selling tickets for the theatre.

On stage different activities took place: there was the “Speaker’s Corner” – a place to debate and speak out, the story telling chair to tell your stories, a place to play…

The months before the performance took place, we spent setting up the space, building the cafe, conducting interviews and turned the theatre into a public space again. The kids love playing in THEIR theatre!

Video and sound installation by Aghnie:

Idea,Concept and Execution: Mareike Wenzel

Team Machkhaani:

Performers: Tea Nadirashvili, Luka Papuashvili, Tornike Papuashvili, Pridon Menteshashvili; other participants from Machkhaani: Maka Chuchulashvili, Qeti Yatashvili, Salome Papuashvili, Misha Menteshashvili and all children from the Machkhaani Kindergarden, as well as all the people who shared their stories with us

Team Tbilisi:

Mariam Gabritchidze, Lili Mamulashvili, Natia Kavtaradze,  Tamta Melashvili, Khatia Tchokhonelidze, Salome Dumbadze, Qeu Meparishvili, Ika Jojua (Aghnie)

With kind support of:


Special thanks to:

CCA Tbilisi, Nana Yaralashvili, Diana Kakashvili, Nana Bagalishvili and the whole village of Machkhaani


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