Category Archives: Classical Theatre

Day 19 Barcelona and Ubu Roi

 

imageMy final day was spent at Parc Guell and with this visit all my long held desires to explore Gaudi were realized. Again whimsy and practicality are forged with nature and this beautiful location captures the cool harbor breeze that eludes the town below.  Gaudi, greatly informed by the ancient Greeks, has made our world a more beautiful and happier place.

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With a few hours to go before going to the theatre, I decided I really should try to do some shopping and so I started along the Ramblas only to find the last thing on my bucket list, the Gran Teatro Liceu and I was able to join the final tour of the day.image

It really is a superb opera house in the Italian style. Privately owned for generations, it is now in the hands of the government. Its most recent refurbishment following a fire in the 1990s, has improved the acoustics, the staging, rehearsal and dressing rooms and made the previously exclusive grand reception area available for all patrons. It’s a lavish and very appealing theatre.

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And finally after a sangria and a sit down it was time to find the Teatre Lluire on Mont Juic. I never did get to do any shopping. image

As I walked amongst the charming buildings of this arts precinct to get to the theatre, I discovered the Barcelona Institute of Theatre, an establishment that has always fascinated me in that it has a specific charter to teach, research, conserve, promote and innovate Catalan performing arts. It has also hosted many significant, international theatre studies conferences.image

imageNot knowing what sort of theatre is housing Ubu Roi, I’m astonished to find myself in the 1929 Palace of Agriculture, also built for the World Fair, now with a 2000 seater conversion in high Barcelona design. Even more astonishing is that I’m in the front row.image

And the play is also astonishing. With a fine pedigree coming from an invitation from Peter Brook, Cheek by Jowl created this production in co production with The Barbican, London.

Presented in French with Catalan surtitles, this is French high art in what I would expect from  La Comedie-Francaise. Jarry’s, Ubu Roi (1896) is always open to extraordinary interpretations and while this was salon style farce in a proscenium arch theatre, it was not so much the interpretation that was astonishing but the performances  particularly of Mere and Pere Ubu. However can I describe their energy and ability to turn on a sixpence? However can I even imagine what the rehearsal process must have been like to accomplish this level of slickness and how did the director know/ imagine what these people were capable of? How did he take them to those places? What an extraordinary accomplishment.

And please remember that I’m seeing this in a language I only just understand, so for the most part I’m missing the text and seeing French chic dissolve into the madness of vulgarity and scatology and back again. Really, for acting and production, this show takes the prize on this trip. Cheek by Jowl has presented a wonderful range of classics and this is no exception. I think there were at least 20 curtain calls. The audience went wild for it and so did I.image

What a wonderful note on which to end this tour.My sincere thanks for all comments, tweets and follows. It’s been a joy to stay in touch.

The next tour? Same time, same station, 2015.

Please go to http://www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com for a full itinerary and to register your interest to See the World & See World Theatre. It’s a great experience.

In theater, there is nothing to understand, but to feel.
Louis Jouvert
French actor and director.

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ALMAGRO and the International Festival of Classical Theatre


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imageDespite the early morning train and a long but comfortable journey, arriving at the deserted Almagro station felt like a homecoming.  With ease I was able to walk to the centre of town and find The Almagro Parador. The cool comfort it offers feels like an oasis in the desert.  Almagro is in Castille-La Mancha which is pretty much in the centre of Spain. I just love it. It is the wide yellow plains of Don Quixote, with evocative architecture, specialized manchegro cuisine, bull raising, and unique hospitality and friendliness.

imagePredictably another wonderful gin and tonic, then quickly into ‘town’ to get a ticket for tonight’s show.

I am greeted by Laura who I met last year and even though the show was fully booked, I did manage to get a ticket for the Compania Nacional de Teatro Clasico production of Donde Hay Agravios No Hay Celos by Rojas Zorrilla. The approximate translation of the title is, Where There is No Jealousy, There is No Grievance.
imageAs the name of the theatre company suggests, this is the National Classic Theatre Company and is based in Madrid. Its’ charter is to preserve and present theatre of The Golden Age  and each year it takes up residency at Almagro for the festival and performs in the beautiful outdoor auditorium at the Teatro Hospice de San Juan.image The director, Helena Pimenta is very well regarded and the very stylish and slick production I saw last year made me a big fan.

A return to the Parador, a beer, a snack, a bath and a nap to get ready for the 22.45 start. Very civilized indeed and then people still go out for drinks and tapas afterwards, the main square is full of activity and the craft market operates over the weekend. So both tourists and local artesans are well catered for.

image This rarely performed play was quite a contrast to the high camp sophistication that  I saw last year and instead presented the rakish adventures of a country caballero and his buffoon, Sancho. When considering the location of this festival, there is an irrepressible charm associated with the choice of this work.   Basically, it’s a let’s swap identities story that reminded me a bit of Don Giovanni, in a rural setting. The set and costumes were appropriately rustic: again, a stark contrast from the high glamour of 2013. The execution of the piece was very imaginative with a piano accordion as a musical accompaniment that served to link scene and lighting changes orchestrated by one of the female actors with some captivating moments that made me look forward to her every entrance just to change a scene!

What I derived from this production was the superb use of language. The language of The Golden Age is exceedingly difficult High Baroque and I was very aware of the vocal coaching provided by Vincente Fuente, whose vocal workshop, The Way of Verse, I had attended last year. Overall the tightness of the company in executing the piece was the stand out which is all due to the masterful direction by Ms Pimenta.
As it transpires, and for a range of circumstances that will become apparent, this is the only show I saw in Almagro and it was an exceedingly fine example of The Spanish Golden Age. It also embodied the lovely lifestyle experience of being in Almagro during the festival, and yes of course, I was able to help the local economy by getting a couple of things at the craft market.

For Salome Bielsa’s truly evocative photos of Almagro go to
https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/bambolia/sets/72157606164312650/

 

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Day 5 Ithaca to Epidavros

 

You’ll notice that Day 4 disappeared as one spent in total relaxation around the pool, a walk to the beach, some exploring in town and then an evening meeting with the woman I had shared a taxi with, Tula. We sat by the harbour drinking ouzo while she told me of her life on Ithaca and elsewhere. Of interest to me was her experience of the 1953 earthquake which decimated Kephalonia and greatly damaged Ithaca. She said it was night time and she was sleeping outside because of the heat and all of a sudden the ground shook terribly and she woke up somewhere else – the whole ground had shifted. She was 15 at the time. As a result of this, the houses in Vathi are all new although on my walk yesterday I did see some stone dwelling ruins. I’m certainly interested to follow up on this when I next get wifi.

No wi fi this morning as I’m on the ferry back to the mainland.Ferry? It’s more like an ocean liner cum international aircraft.

Another early start with a taxi at 6.30 for a 7 am ferry. All is well and as we descend the hill down to the harbour, I ask the driver how much? 15. What, 15 for a 5 minute drive I think to myself. Perhaps there was an early morning premium and then as he started to drive out of
Vathi I started to get really nervous. Where are we going? ferry? Waving my ticket in his face. Yes, yes. And up and out of the town with spectacular harbour views in the early morning light, more winding roads and now at 6.45. I express my dismay at the time, and he noticeably steps on the gas.

The arrival at the harbour clearly displays why the ferry is in a different harbour – the thing is huge! And now as I’m at Kephalonia watching petrol tankers, buses and even a concrete mixer come on board, I think for those people challenged by flying, this sort of cargo could be quite anxious making.

At Kellini,I get off this ferry and take the onboard bus to Patras where I collect a hire car to drive to Epidavros and see Euripides Helen at 9.15 this evening.

And by the way, this round about route to get to Patras is a result of the austerities and the failure of the ferry company to upgrade their internet information. Just as well I went to book my ticket some days in advance and with the assistance of Yanna.

The ongoing journey was quite hilarious with the taxi driver from the bus station to Avis trying to convince me that the road was terrible, winding, over mountains, and much too hard for me and that he would do me a very special price of €250. I showed him my Avis agreement for 4 days unlimited mileage for much the same price. Can’t blame him for trying. While the drive was long and I kept heading for Ancient Corinth rather than Epidavros, the roads were no more difficult than any country driving we have in Oz.

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Ancient Epidavros is on the Saronic Gulf and another of those dream locations. The Heleni Hotel is set among orange groves, opposite the beach and the host really went out of his way to tee me up with the theatre people staying here. There was a classical theatre summer school led by a Professor from the University of Athens and a cultural tour leader from Germany. Both very good contacts for me.

As I didn’t want to drive out to the ampitheatre on my own, I joined Jens group for the play, which I enjoyed enormously.image

imageI knew it was to be a modern interpretation and held my breath as the actors in contemporary garb, each with an amp box on wheels, were performing curious acts of physical theatre. But as the play unfolded, I liked it more and more, as each of the actors, about 8 of them, were a tight chorus and stepped out to take the variety of roles. And to my delight they did perform the humour of the piece. They kept very close to the original text and while the English surtitles were useful, it did distract t my attention from the subtleties of the physical theatre performance. The sounds emitting from the amp boxes added a terrific layer to the piece and the chorus unison work was astounding. So all in all a very worthwhile experience for me. Although on returning to the hotel last night there were quite a few detractors of the interpretation and of course, they all have their points of view and so I grabbed a glass of wines and called it a night.

It had been an incredibly long day and a most rewarding one. Thank you Euripides, thank you actors and director, thank you Epidavros and thank you Athens/Epidavros Festival. image

Almagro Day 6

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

Almagro International Festival of Classical Theatre, Almagroff, Golden Age of Spanish Theatre, Fuenteoveojuna by Lopes de Vega, El lindo don Diego by Moreto, Fuentovejuna by Lopes de Vega, the Castile – La Mancha countryside, Almodovar’s village, Caldaza de Calatrava, Volver

This was a wonderful day and almost as if I’d be saving the best till last. In preparation for my drive to Merida tomorrow, I had to go back to Ciudad Real to collect the hire car before 1.30. Once again I headed to the Almagro Estacion and made the 15 minute trip by fast train. As I needed to familiarize myself with right hand side of the road driving, I decided to do a bit of sight seeing before returning to Almagro. I started off in the heat of the day and as I was driving (well getting lost really) around Ciudad Real, I saw a very big market. And the best thing was that it had stall after stall of fruit and vegetables! I left with bags full of goodies.

From the market I went to several special sites including Alacros, a medieval town, military stronghold, which included the Knights Templar Order of Calatrava, and a battlefield, against the Moors. Close by is another historical medieval sacred castle and monastery called Calatrava La Nueva which the Knights of the Calatrava maintained.

Just exploring these places enabled me to contextualise the period of chivalry in this province of Castile-La Mancha that so inspired Cervantes. Looking at the broad, empty landscape (and not a windmill in sight) one can appreciate the journeys of Don Quixote (with his squire, Sancho Panza) and his quest to do right.

Another curiosity is that Calzada de Calatrava, the village at the foot of the castle, is the birthplace of Pedro Almodovar. When he was 8, Almodovar was sent to boarding school in Caceres, Extremadura, which is in the Merida area of Spain. His film,Volver, is based in and around Almagro and I was reminded of the opening scene when each day I noticed the women in Almagro scrubbing the brick work, window sills and pavements of their houses. Of course Almodovar is exceedingly famous now and he lives, and has his production office, in Madrid, but it is interesting to connect any artist to place.

While I was in Caldaza, I stopped in a bar for an ice cream, and there I saw a local Bullfight on TV. I am greatly attracted by the theatricality of Bullfighting and have resolved to go to one. Madrid of course houses the main bullring but as it is a seasonal activity I will need to plan for it on another trip. Although, I’m not averse to a municipal bullfight like the one I saw advertised in Ciudad Real.

Before going to the theatre in the evening, I was able to include a visit to the Museum of Theatre. What I found extraordinary is that the museum is a huge building at the end of the Plaza de Mayor
in a small provincial town. While it may be true that Almagro values the tourist influx associated with its’ festival, I also suggest it is equally true that it also has the greatest respect for its theatre history and the history of theatre in general. This museum focused on theatre memorabilia, ephemera and costumes. And sadly for me, its’ opening at 6 pm meant that I had very little time there before going to catch the bus to Teatro La Valete. This museum is another place to which I’d like to return.

This production Lopes de Vega’s, Fuenteovejuna, was a perfect blending of old text and contemporary adaptation. I am told that it has been in the company’s repertoire for some two years, and that certainly shows in terms of slickness, wonderful ensemble work and a real commitment to telling the story.
Set out of doors on this beautifully balmy evening, the play unfolded with all of the well known elements associated with this piece. Despotism, municipal corruption and abuse of power, community fear, torture on the rack, the ultimate resistance by the community and hubris of the Corregidor was handled in the manner of modern day activism, sort of a class action approach, with appropriate slogans, chanting, a petition and enlistment of supporters, to no avail but a totally concerted agreement by the whole town that ‘Fuenteovejuna made me do it.’
Each actor excelled in representing the various characters and situations as well as working well with the audience to gain its support for the cause. It’s a marvellous play, which I encourage people to read. And at the end of it, I couldn’t help but feel it was an appropriate choice given Spain’s economic difficulties at the moment.

The second play of the evening was totally superb. El lindo don Diego by Agustin Moreto, was for me an example of everything The Spanish Golden Age of theatre stood for. Performed by Compania Nacional de Teatro Clasico, it was a triumph of style, theatricality, wondrous period costuming, innovative, economical, stage design and beautiful execution of the verse on the part of the actors. (Once again trained by Vincente Feuntes.)
This is a play of foppery and narcissism, a twisted plot of suitable social status for marriage and the ultimate humiliation of Don Diego, who realizes that it is only his extravagant appearance that has suffered.
I’m very regretful that I was not able to get some worthwhile photos during the production and the scanty curtain call photos do nothing to indicate the triumph of the piece. I had certainly left the best to last and that in itself made the Almagro experience intensely rewarding. I look forward to the programme next year and put out a challenge to some Australian actors to consider a classic to perform there in 2014.

I was sad to leave Almagro, I had been with some terrific people and the experience of immersing myself in The Golden Age of Spanish Theatre in a ‘ golden age’ location was not only rewarding but has left me wanting to know more.

Almagro Day 5

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

Almagro International Festival of Classical Theatre, Almagroff, Historia del Loco Cardenio by Shakespeare y Fletcher, Quevado at The Corral de Comedias, Golden Age of Spanish Theatre

This was the last day of the workshop and I’ve attached some photos of the class, some of the group at lunch, and our feet under the table. It was a marvellous experience for me and to meet and go to theatre with Vincente Fuentes was a very special privilege. I would love to bring him to Australia to do a workshop on verse and his method of teaching voice…who knows?

Before I went to the theatre, I went to a beautiful exhibition devoted to the development of theatre scenery and Lantern shows. The history and artistry involved in creating the images for projection was fascinating and the exhibits made me aware of the craftsmanship involved in creating these exceedingly detailed, highly coloured miniatures which ranged from children’s stories and nature to mythological and religious subject matter. In addition to see models of sets for theatre and opera productions in Madrid from the 18c really excited me. Once again, it puts the craft of theatre into context and the respect that Spain accords to its theatre tradition. Sadly there were no photos allowed, but I gather that this was a travelling exhibition from Madrid and there was also a documentary about famous actors and their equally famous costumes which certainly came well into the 20c. Truly, as the Almagro Festival had so much to see apart from the theatre productions, it was very hard to find sufficient time to do it all and I’m really sorry I didn’t get to see any of the children’s theatre, Barroco Infantil. I did however meet the Festival Director, Natalia Menendez, and was able to express to her how her title for the festival, The Colour of the Classics, and her warm introduction to the programme had enticed me to make the journey from Melbourne. I believe the classics are the soul of theatre and my coming to terms with classics from another culture has been a very rewarding experience.

Historia del loco Cardenio at Teatro La Veleta was another valuable experience in introducing me to the existence of a play by Shakespeare and Fletcher about the Story of the Cardenio in Don Quixote. Vincente told me the text is wonderful and so I will make a point of discovering this for myself when I get home. My google research indicates that this is one of those plays around which scholars are divided about the authorship.

At 10.30 pm the Plaza Mayor was buzzing. As people were queuing to get into the Corral de Comedias, a fire twirler was attracting much attention while at the other end of the square an artisan market was selling everything from pickled delicacies, finely crafted ceramics, glove puppets, jewellry, children’s clothing and a spruiker was announcing the beginning of his puppet show.

As the crowd swelled we surged into the Corral with the canvas puled back to reveal the full moon and to allow some breeze into the stifling night. The crowd was so excited and so was I. And I too, had become accustomed to taking a fan with me to see a show!
Quevedo was not a show I especially wanted to see, but I did want to see the Corral in action. Of course it was completely full. The play took a cultural tourism look at Quevado’s work and I got a sense that it was dealing with notions of justice and reason. He too, had been a most prolific writer and raised issues about theology and justice. A rather tricky thing to do during the period of the Inquisition.
Francisco de Quevedo – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_de_Quevedo
The play was a 3 hander with a tourist guide cum nun setting the story and then Quevado and another nun discoursing about his works. This was very difficult for me to follow as it seemed quite philosophical and with just one man in a bed, scraps of paper everywhere and two nuns trying to keep him well and fed, on this occasion my lack of Spanish completely defeated me. I did however achieve what I set out to do and that was to see a performance in the Corral. I am sorry it wasn’t a rollicking, bawdy piece of nonsense.
But it was a wonderful experience just to be in the space.

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

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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

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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