Gogol: Overcoat (c) Eöri Szabó Zsolt

The Overcoat: A Balaganza of Absurdity and Travesty

The 10th MITEM Theatre Festival continues to showcase the theatre achievements of Hungarian national theatre and productions from other countries. 

One of the guests of the festival was The Overcoat by Griboyedov State Academic Russian Drama Theatre from Tbilisi. The performance, labeled by director Avtandil Varsimashvili as an “Absurd Tale in One Act” involved the audience in the atmosphere of a frenetic and catchy balaganza. No one, however, suffered except for the text of the source material and its semantic background – Nikolai Gogol’s short story of the same name.


The production of The Overcoat was made in the same way as the overcoat was made in Gogol’s story: cheap and cheerful, with a simple invention and with the festival in mind. The goal has been achieved – the play successfully tours and wins local awards, and one can only praise the professionalism of the director, who managed to “marry” a great work of Russian and world literature with superficial theater. But it’s a damn shame that the spirit of the time, the feeling of the era, as well as the satire and sharpness of writing inherent in Nikolai Gogol, have completely disappeared from the performance of the Georgian theatre, performed in Russian in front of a European audience based on the work of an author who is desperately divided between Russia and Ukraine.


The theatre of the absurd, stated in the subtitle of the performance, is expressed only in the rough seams of the scenes, sewn in as if for laughs. But absurdity always has logic. This is all the more important considering that Bashmachkin, who turned into a ghost, according to the plot, is in a sense the forerunner of Franz Kafka’s Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis according to Vladimir Nabokov. All these thoughtful considerations, however, have nothing to do with the performance, which, starting from one of the phrases of the story, simply pushed away its foundation and launched into a cheerful round dance, carrying the viewer along with it. The viewer does not know that this is dancing on the bones of the immortal hero Nikolai Gogol.


Avtandil Varsimashvili’s Overcoat is a Gogol-lite performance. It’s probably good for school trips or for when people come to the theatre to be entertained. It neatly avoids sharp Gogolian corners, and translates satirical passages of the text into wicked jokes and playful sketches. But this Overcoat is not capable of warming thought, it has no philosophical lining. It is a light summer windbreaker. But such things are also necessary in the “theatre wardrobe”. 

Find out more at TheaterTimes.com

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