Ilkhom Theatre Uzbekistan

Ilkhom Theatre is a remarkable artistic collective operating an independent space for creative expression in Tashkent. It was founded in 1976, during the period of Perestroika, by charismatic director Mark Weil and a group of fellow graduates of Tashkent’s Theatre Arts Institute. Arising from their desire for new ideas, Ilkhom’s works combine contemporary forms and techniques with elements drawn from Tashkent’s rich performing arts legacy, reviving local street theatre, improvisation, minstrelsy and clowning traditions. A multi-ethnic company mixing languages, integrating Russian, oriental and western cultures, and giving voice to the experiences of ordinary people, Ilkhom exemplifies diversity and tolerance, and offers a counter-discourse to sanctioned narratives. Its productions are a mix of world classics, re-interpretations of historic material and original works rooted in Uzbekistan’s history and specificities. The sexuality and nudity in Ilkhom’s 1990s production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome shocked even the cosmopolitan Uzbek elite and raised debate on Central Asian values. Among its own outstanding creations is Ecstasy with a Pomegranate, based on the life of a Russian painter sent to Tashkent in 1916-17 who converted to Sufi Islam and immersed himself in local culture, especially the Bacha dance, a unique form pre-Soviet Uzbek culture. It explores identity, religion, homosexuality, and the transitions from Imperial to Soviet Russia and from fantasy to reality, as well as integrating visual artwork, documentary materials and multimedia elements. Ilkhom runs a School of Drama providing an eclectic training for young actors, organises international tours and collaborations, is the centre of an active network of artists in other cultural disciplines, and serves as an umbrella for other independent arts initiatives. Ilkhom Theatre is honoured for the high quality of its dramatic productions, for creating a space of freedom in a zone of silence, for nurturing and inspiring the younger generations in Uzbekistan, and for upholding the role of theatre as a means of opening minds and stimulating development.

2011 Prince Claus Awards Book here.