Famed puppet theatre director, screenwriter, author Rezo Gabriadze dies at 84

Gabriadze was called a "Georgian national treasure" by The New York Times and a "genius" who "capture[d] epic issues in tiny-scale puppet sketches" by American Theatre. Photo via Gabriadze Theatre.

Agenda.ge, 07 Jun 2021 - 12:51, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia's celebrated puppet theatre director, screenwriter, illustrator and author Rezo Gabriadze has passed away at age 84, with obituaries in the country and beyond marking his long-standing work as an internationally recognised figure in puppet stage art on Monday.

Recipient of a range of state prizes and acclaim from his fellow stage professionals, Gabriadze's passing was announced by the Georgian Public Broadcaster on Sunday, with the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia calling his death an "irreparable loss for Georgian culture".

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili responded to the news by lauding "warmth, kindness and love [as Gabriadze's] principal values and the main axis of his creative work".

The news saw coverage not only by local press but also by the BBC, which called Gabriadze "[o]ne of the Soviet art world's most famous figures" known "internationally for exquisite puppet theatre productions".

Watch the trailer for Academy Award-nominated animation biopic on Gabriadze:


Gabriadze was known internationally for exquisite puppet theatre productions such as his poignant depiction of the Battle of Stalingrad


The BBC obituary made a particular mention of The Battle of Stalingrad, one of Gabriadze's most outstanding works in the puppet theatre he founded in Tbilisi in 1981. The staging was performed in Georgia and brought by tour to London in 2002 before presented in France a year later, as well as North America.

Beside his work as a puppeteer, the creative also authored screenplays for over 35 films, including Soviet-era Georgian classics An Unusual Exhibition (director Eldar Shengelaia) and Don't Grieve (directed by Giorgi Danelia).

Gabriadze was called a "Georgian national treasure" by The New York Times and a "genius" who "capture[d] epic issues in tiny-scale puppet sketches" by American Theatre.

A scene from 'The Battle of Stalingrad', one of Gabriadze's most well-known puppet productions. Photo via Gabriadze Theatre.

Gabriadze himself is a Georgian national treasure. I saw his marionette version of the Battle of Stalingrad [...] [in] a dank, run-down basement [in Tbilisi], where I watched, enthralled, as Gabriadze’s tiny puppet tanks advanced to the rousing strains of Shostakovich. It was unforgettable

- Joshua Levine, The New York Times

Gabriadze also created illustrations for more than 50 books, with his works exhibited and preserved at museums in Europe and the United States. The multi-faceted creative also worked on music for his stagings.

For his decades of work Gabriadze was awarded the title of the People's Artist of Georgia and honoured with France's state Order of Arts and Letters. The theatre director also received the Soviet Order of the Badge of Honour and the Shota Rustaveli State Prize of Georgia, in addition to cinema prizes in Georgia and the wider USSR.

Earlier this year Rezo, an Academy Award-nominated animation biopic on Gabriadze's life and work - with screenplay and art by the popular theatre figure himself - was made available for viewing on the Netflix platform.