Category Archives: Athens/Epidaurus

The Battlefields of Troy

Rhesus by Euripides (?)

The evening is hot and steamy and my non English speaking taxi driver goes to great lengths to inform me we cannot go via Syntagma Square to get to Aristotle’s Philosophy Lyceum, the venue for Euripides’ Rhesus.  When I finally manage to successfully negotiate my way on foot through the gracious streets adjacent to the presidential palace, the police sirens and whistle sound effects of the ‘we don’t want a Grexit’ demonstration have a curious irony as the peripetic audience is colour coded and carefully ushered into this relatively obscure ancient ruin. Set on 3 acres of prime Athens real estate, the ruins of the ancient school rooms together with the excavation mounds resemble a battle field and as the sun goes down and the immense lighting rig creates the theatre of the Trojan war we are transported into the dreamlike state from which Hector is roused.

The dreamstate is further exaggerated as a battalion of male actors slow motion their way across the fields in a sequence of four separate actions accompanied by a haunting soundscape resembling Indonesian gamelan plus French horn and timpani. Under strict instructions not to photograph this performance, the cinematic/balletic quality is enhanced sans voice with the exception of a Greek voice over reciting selected Aristotelean texts chosen from Place, On Dreams and Manners for Young People surrounding the quality of life in both the woken and dream state.

The text was repeated often as the actors engaged in different sorties and fighting activities. All the while one actor, later to be revealed as Hector, slumbered on a rusty and raised tower somewhat removed from the actions of the troops. Group by group, the audience was guided to different vantage points to watch the activities and for the benefit of the English speaking audience, to view the translation of Aristotle’s text projected on a tall and imposing wall.   The effect of this ballet plus philosophy experience was hypnotic and disquieting.

However, I do recall my thoughts as to the ingenuity and solemnity of the location, the cost of the lighting rig and the magnificence of the live music and the enormous energy of the actors. Director, Katerina Evangelatos’ high regard is clearly demonstrated through the provision of funds and access to this hallowed venue.

Hector surveys the battlefield.
Hector surveys the battlefield.

And then the Rhesus play began. A sentry/messenger rouses Hector from his sleep with news of suspicious stirrings in the Greek camp. What ensues in the half light is a mishmash of rationales and strategies against figures of men in various states of battle fatigue. At this stage I ask myself is this what Rhesus is about? Famous opposing and allied warriors in states of self-appointed- entitlement-pique amongst infiltration, suspicion and dubious loyalties? While Euripides’ authorship is highly contested, the performance is totally faithful to the text but what this huge, hauntingly empty landscape provided, was the landscape of the mind and the foolishness that it can dictate. Instead of a reading portraying the comparative power and wiles of Homer’s account of great leaders, Euripides’ famous warriors in the hands of Evangelatos appear petulant and nonsensical with the greatest loss being a mother goddess’ loss when Rhesus (performing his well overdue duty to Hector) is slain at the hands of Diomedes.  This generates great debate amongst the mortals suggesting that Rhesus’ death and the theft of his prized horses was an ‘inside job’. Again, I ask myself what is the purpose of this play? And does my uncertainty align with the scholarly discourse as to the authenticity of Euripides’ authorship? My next question as to the value of this play and the significance of its characters in the canon of Greek tragedy is answered by Evangelatos’ direction in this arid landscape of the mind – that the mind plays tricks. Evangelatos’ portrayal of the ‘game of war’ further emphasised by the actors’ childlike costumes and props plus the heavily laden interweavings of Aristotle’s considerations on the mind makes this production really work for me. On its own the text is difficult at best, but by putting this production in a dreamlike state, it has a message for us all. Perhaps again, we can apply the futility of war to the current economic and political issues in Greece – just how much of it is a perception/creation of the metaphorical mass mind?

Young people do not have bad moods. They are rather good, because they have not yet seen many examples of corrupt people. They are gullible because we have not yet taught them to cheat. </em

Go to Watch on Youtube

http://greekfestival.gr/en/events/view/katerina-evangelatos-2015

Go to Gallery

http://greekfestival.gr/en/events/view/katerina-evangelatos-2015

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All The Worlds A Stage Theatre Tours Officially Launched + Friends Special Offer!

Dear Friends and Followers,
All The Worlds A Stage Theatre Tours went live this week!(www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com) It’s been a long journey over the last 18 months and your ongoing feedback and encouragement has really kept me going when it’s got tough. And as a special thank you I now have a special offer for you.

You’ll remember I was in Greece last July and was knocked out by it. Sensational theatre in Athens and the out-of town-ancient ampitheatres, the landscape, hospitality, food, music, how Greek history translates to theatre, the sun, the islands, and also the noticeable Greek resilience and devotion to pleasure and excitement.

Right now, I’m planning on going again this July to tie up some loose ends for the 2015 tour and was wondering if you (or any of your friends) might be interested in taking up this special offer:

How about joining me for 10 days or so to soak up the Mediterranean summer to test out the proposed Greek leg of the 2015 All The World’s A Stage Theatre Tour?

Here’s what you’ll get:

ACT 1 SCENE 1: ANCIENT GREECE – The Birthplace of Western Theatre
THE SETTING: ATHENS/EPIDAVROS FESTIVAL, 2014
AT A GLANCE:
10 DAYS IN GREECE including:

5 nights in Athens
5 theatre productions from the Athens/Epidaurus Festival (including the ancient ampitheatres that you’ll talk about for years!)
5 guided tours to Ancient sites:
the Acropolis (including the Theatre of Dionysis and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus); the Acropolis Museum;
Delphi and the Theatre of Apollo;
Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplio;
the Ancient Theatre at Epidavros,
the Asclepeios Healing Sanctuary and the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidavros.
2 nights of seaside indulgence in rural Epidavros
3 nights of Odyssean intrigue on the Island of Ithaca

+ my knowledge + my 2013 experience (all documented on this blog – brendaaddie.com)
+ you could also check out the proposed 2015 Greek leg of the tour on www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com
OR
http://www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com/where-we-go/ancient-greece/

As this business is in its infancy, I’d just be asking you to join me at cost – we’d do a land only price and you get yourself to Athens.

There are still some good flights avail but filling fast. Obviously if we were to get 10 people together we’d get some significant reductions.

AND I get to travel with people I like as my case studies, What fun!

Send me an email ‘tell me more!’ to brendaaddie@gmail.com
We’d need to book in the next 10 days! (or use the contact form below…)

With best wishes for front row seats always,
Brenda.

P.S. Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested.

Athens Day 5 Island Hopping and Iphigenia in Aulis

Athens Day 5 Island Hopping and Iphegenia in Aulis

This is a photographic record of an Island Hopping Tour. The Greek Islands are everything everyone says about them and there is nothing other than to experience them for oneself.

Iphigenia in Aulis, once more a postmodern interpretation, highlighted Euripides’ doubt in the current status quo. The play is regarded as an ironic drama and this production was certainly played for humour and the audience responded with guffaws of laughter.

The setting is the port of Aulis where Agamemnon and his army are setting sail for Troy to recapture Helen. However, Artemis has becalmed the seas and requires a sacrifice to enable the army to get under way.
http://www.ancient-literature.com/greece_euripides_iphigenia_aulis.html provides a very good synopsis of the plot.
As an aside, it seems that Aulis is a port in Thebes, where I passed through yesterday.

The staging has the sensibility of down and out. There is a metal watch tower, discarded and dysfunctional shipping apparatus, small sand dunes which provide isolated performing areas and strips of shallow water.
The actors were attired in modern dress and the chorus in this production consisted of two flapper-style bathing beauties who decorously draped themselves amongst the sand and watery shallows.
On another note, I couldn’t help but wonder if the play could be interpreted as a parody on Greece’s currently becalmed financial situation and what sacrifices are needed to change the tides of good fortune.

My lack of Greek did not impede comprehension of this piece and while knowing the story helps, it was the production design, direction and attention to detail that captured my attention and my admiration. Agamemnon was a sorrowful fellow with a big problem. Iphegenia was a fey young women, who went to her sacrifice like a lamb to the slaughter – please pardon the cliche, sometimes they are useful.

The first time director, but acclaimed actor, Maria Protopappa, did not entertain any histrionics and the beauty of the text was apparent by each of the actor’s complete and unselfconscious immersion in the narrative. I do like listening to Greek when delivered well. There is such charm and power in the sounds and phrasing.
This production, also in the industrial conversion space, utilized the emptiness of the space with its most engaging set. Again, the audience loved the show; they laughed heartily, we’re incredibly silent in the most intense moments and erupted into wondrous applause at the play’s conclusion. It is becoming more and more apparent just how important the arts are to the locals and I consider it a great privilege to be a part of such appreciation.

Day 4 The Theatre of Apollo at Delphi

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

THE THEATRE OF APOLLO AT DELPHI
Today I utilized the knowledge and experience of a conducted tour, and as I had already seen the main Festival offering, Ibsen’s, An Enemy of the People, at the 2012 Melbourne International Arts Festival, I opted for a leisurely Greek taverna dinner with an Athenian friend in the evening.

The exceedingly well organized tour was headed by an exceptional guide who cheerfully imparted her wealth of historical, mythological and topical material. Leaving Athens, the bus took a 2 hr drive through its urban sprawl, fertile plains and seaports, into the dizzying heights of the mountains. Amongst the urban sprawl was the location of Marathon, the plains of Thebes, the Sanctuary of Olympia, the site of The Muses, and the Temple to Demeter, which is of great interest to me as it is the Temple associated with the Mysteries School.

In terms of Greek Theatre, David Wiles has devoted a good deal of scholarship to the notion of the significance of place. Indeed this was an element I engaged in my own Masters thesis in as much as a playwright will make reference to a place and by association, the audience will appreciate the deep meaning. Although associations of place had already been aroused in me, in view of actually passing through the places encountered in ancient literature, it is an area I would like to explore in my future studies of Greek drama texts.

The Temple of Apollo is located on Mount Parnassus. The extraordinary rugged beauty of the place in high summer belies its existence as a winter playground for cross country skiing and snowboarding and other snow activities I know nothing about!

Arriving at the Temple of Apollo, and passing through the agora, one is seemingly greeted by the imposing columns of the altar at the entrance to the temple, and at which, supposed sacrifices took place prior to performances in the theatre.
Theatre, according to one source, http://www.coastal.edu/ashes2art/delphi2/sanctuary/theatre.html, was a sacred act with the priest of the temple officiating. Actors were also sacred and highly revered, and from my observations, this attitude seems to persist amongst modern Greeks.
The ampitheatre, which seats 5000, is well preserved and overlooks the The Temple. As the patron of Delfi, Apollo is the god of light, music, poetry, healing, prophecy and more, and is the twin brother of Artemis, goddess of hunting.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo, gives an excellent account of Apollo’s duties as the Patron of Delphi/Delfi and also makes clear the positioning of Delphi as the navel of the world. Indeed the ancient ompholos is represented by a concrete replica on site with the supposed original ? or at least, another replica housed in the site museum.
Our guide explained that the site is exceptionally high in magnetic energy, which in turn, is associated with prophecy. I watched as a tourist carefully placed his hands on the concrete ompholos and I hope he was blessed with a suitable Delphic response.

When I asked the guide about contemporary use of the theatre, she informed me that several years ago, Vanessa Redgrave had performed Phaedre here. Wow! (even though it’s unsubstantiated.)

The visit to this site has revealed just how much more I want to learn about Ancient Greece. It is very inspirational. For my next trip, I intend to have expanded my knowledge and to have obtained a passable amount of basic Greek. For the most part, people working in museums and tourist places speak English, but everyone responds very well when you greet them with kalimera and acknowledge them with efpharisto.

Dinner in a back street taverna near Monastiraki was wonderful. Angela Makris ordered a wide range of local delicacies ranging from deep fried feta with honey and oregano, local salad, meatballs, and I can’t remember what else. Although I do remember the ouzo. I really enjoy the freshness and relative simplicity of Greek food and the taste of tomatoes and other salad vegetables is very different from Australian salad vegetables. Maybe Greek soil is magic!

Walking through the main streets of Athens at night was without incident and at no time have I felt unsafe.

Athens Day 3

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

ANTIGONE at the Benaki Museum

I have heard it said that many theatre lovers become despondent when the Ancient Greek classics are reinterpreted. And despite my desire to also see a grand chorus and Tiresius making his sightless entrance, this production, with just 6 actors sans Tiresius, was a well executed representation of societal limitation. The architecture of the museum Atrium was intrinsic to this notion with floor to ceiling glass window frames boxing the frustrations of each of the characters. The grand chorus was a one – woman tour de force. Antigone was lithe and athletic in her earthy despair while Ismene was a tall, detached vision of loveliness in blue. Kreon, was huge in stature and in his delivery. For me, subtlety is always a winner but the audience seemed to enjoy his expansive gesture and vocal delivery. My handy ipad with the English text was not a success on this occasion as I had few pointers to connect to within the adaptation. Once again the audience appreciation was vast and it is apparent how greatly culture is revered in Greece. Indeed the Festival Director, in his opening gambit, suggests how culture eases hardship and reignites qualities of hope and beauty. He also comments on the deliberate choice to focus his festival on Greek content with Greek performers. Selfishly this pleased me enormously. The day was spent making the acquaintance of a dentist. My first bite into a Greek apricot meet with resistance from a molar. Sadly for me, the apricot won. Dr Theodoros Papadakis was a delight. The surgery, an aesthetic feast of works of art and interior design and he just happens to have the same name as my Theodore. As a theatre lover himself he was immensely interested in this project and was curious to get my impression of the local cultural content and appreciation which in turn elicited my admiration and a query as to whether it was just because of the festival. Not so, he assured me and spoke of the excitement surrounding the upcoming all-male version of Medea. I, too , am greatly looking forward to it as the finale to the Athens leg of this journey.

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Athens Day 2 Love and Intrigue

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SCHILLER’S LOVE AND INTRIGUE

Today I explored the Acropolis and despite the heat and the hard the climb, one is humbled by the achievements of the Ancient Greeks and the truly awesome expression of excellence in architecture and religion. For me the highlight was sitting in the Theatre of Dionysis – the birthplace of Western Theatre. Also on the Acropolis, is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus which symbolizes the next phase in the development of theatre – that of the Romans. Sadly for me the festival programmes showing at the Odeon while I am here are showcasing contemporary singers and other genres that are not part of my thesis. So instead I went to a production of Schiller’s Love and Intrigue. While this is an 18 century German text, my reservations about the language for a modern audience were totally dispelled by the adaptation of the piece into Greek tragedy. The adaptation was superb and ticked all the boxes for the elements of Greek Tragedy while the delectable sounds of the Greek language translation coupled with Greek emotional sensibilities enlivened the piece significantly.

The setting for the production was a great adventure to an industrial area of Athens where a factory complex was turned into a theatre space. The sparseness of the set and mere suggestion of German period costume were ideally informed. The playing of a complex plot with many characters was executed by just 2 female and 4 male players all of which was handled with perfect suspension of disbelief including a beautiful mime sequence which served as a prologue to the piece as the audience entered the auditorium. For me, a non Greek speaker, I tested out the use of my iPad with an English translation of the German text and page turning as the play went on. It worked marvelously and knowing the plot and the characters, I could quickly skip through the cuts and doubling of characters. In all it was a very worthwhile experience including the festival’s consideration in supplying a bus to return patrons to the Athens city centre. This was followed by a short walk on a balmy evening back to my hotel. Another really great day of seeing the world and seeing world theatre.

The Theatre of Dionysis
The Theatre of Dionysis