Sunday, December 18, 2011

Armenia has got Talent!

Today I arrived back from a week in Yerevan, Armenia. This is my 7th visit and most of the time I am there for business. I have also made some great friends and 2 years ago I was “godfather” to my dearest friends at their wedding. This friendship has allowed me to get to know Armenia in a different light. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to visit many countries and get to know many cultures, and to see some of these countries from not a tourist perspective but the real deal.
I have now built a good knowledge of the Yerevan scene and I have visited a Karaoke bar! (Sad but true, I am a Karaoke die hard fan) But it was in this visit that my friends opened my eyes to a side of Yerevan and Armenia I had not seen and was not expecting it.
During my visits my friends Minas and Lilit, always build some time to do something typical, something that gives me a flavor of what this country is all about. And on this occasion Minas Hambardzumyan (a very talented Professional Public Relations, Communications, and Media specialist, see his website called me the day before we met and said “how would you like to go to the theatre tomorrow?” I mean, what a question right? Anyone who knows me can tell you that I would jump to the opportunity to either go to a karaoke bar (which we did in my last visit) or the theater or some performing arts show! So I said, “Minas, you don’t need to ask! Yes please!” Now although I look Armenian, (actually I look like Egyptian, Russian, Georgian… etc) I don’t speak the language but not for once I thought about this as a barrier for going to the theatre. This comes from my paradigm that art is art, wherever you are. However, people I was with at work through “really? How will you understand what they are saying?” and I said, “who cares, it’s theatre!”
So next day I met my dearest friends and my new born godson, and had a great afternoon with them, enjoying some traditional Armenian BBQ followed by some Armenian Brandy “ARARAT” at my friend’s parent’s house as we dropped the young member of the family who was not coming to the theater!. And then we moved to the venue where the show would take place. (it is a hard life)
Now, if you don’t know anything about Armenia you would not know what to expect going to the theatre. But even I who has been there a few times, what I was about to discover is a real treasure in a city unknown to many.
We landed at the venue called Yerevan Chamber Theatre (website ) where the Theatre Company of the same name is resident and present cabaret shows every night of the week. We walked through a hug wooden door, which led to an area where you can drop you coats and hats, (Yerevan is quite cold at this time of the year) and then we walked into an amazing and magical venue. Decorated with artistic wall murals and musical statues of people playing various instruments, the small but yet incredibly stimulating entrance led to an art exhibition and a café. The exhibition hall presented works from local Armenian Artist and paints which allowed you to embody yourself in the arts before walking into the 50-seat studio where the show would take place.
At this point, I am in my element, and I could be anywhere! London, Paris, Moscow… it was so amazing to find so much talent (through the paints and sculptures), and a real sense for the flavor of the performing arts in this simple yet clever use of space, studio. I could not wait to see what was going to be presented to me.
The lights went down, the music started and we got a snippet of “Cabaret” as the artist started their show and their main actor/singer/dancer Rafik Yeranosyan grabbed the audience with his charismatic and energetic opening lines. I did not understand literally a word of what he was saying, but I didn’t matter, I was completely mesmerized by his enigmatic persona
Then the rest of the cast came on, 3 girls and 3 boys (a total of 7 on stage) and took us through a journey of music, dance, comedy and pure showbiz entertainment. From start to finish, all 7 cast members where on the ball, feeding of each other and spreading electrical energy to the audience who laugh and clapped non-stop till the end. These people had talent, and no mater where they were, what language they spoke or how big their venue was, they were committed to the task at hand, to entertain their audience. They were what I call true artist giving themselves to their audience and working hard for their final reward, the upstanding ovation of the 50 or so people in the studio. A true artist works hard for his money, true, but also for the claps of his audience and these guys knew how to earn it.
And as I watched two hours of true cabaret, I could not help but thinking “I wish more people could see this, I wish this sort of talent was more exposed” and then I got mad, and what I am about to say may be controversial but true! I thought of the recent talent event that took part in England and I am glad to say I stayed well away from it, The X Factor! And it made me mad to think that we have now run this show for more than 5 years and ever time it get worse! We pick completely, untalented but very commercial people who sell, sell a show. And it made me sad that we, in Britain, have some much talent, just like in Armenia, and rather than exposing them to express themselves and perform in front of eager audience, we pick those who do not have the true desire to earn a clap but a hunger to earn a few bob in their 15 minutes of fame!
In Armenia, the Yerevan Chamber Theatre Company is a true example of real artist working to satisfy their audiences who keep coming back again and again. Isn’t it time in Britain we stop wasting our money on untalented commercial rubbish and invest on artist who need the platform to earn some well-deserved claps (and pounds)?
If in Armenia, please visit the Yerevan Chamber Theatre company, I guarantee you will see some amazing talent that Yerevan has!

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