Lisbon’s Almada Festival

imageThe Almada Festival, although in its 31st year, is little known, even in Portugal.

Unable to book online and hopeful of something I wanted to see because of the lateness of their program publication, I was told by my hotel porter to just turn up. There was however something I really did want to see and that is La Reunification des Deux Corees, a French production by Joel Pommerat, a writer/director who had been invited to spend some time with Peter Brook.
Arriving at this festival location there is a hubbub of activity, outdoor dining and music and a very gracious and committed crowd of festival and theatre goers. This festival is quite unique, as is the island of Almada, which had an independent identity from Neolithic times  to comparatively recently.

My instinct tells me that this theatre developed as a result of the 1970’s political activity, but I have yet to confirm the activities of Joaquim Benite after whom the main theatre is named. It certainly seems to have its roots in socialist democratic activities.

On turning up at the Box Office, it’s a subscription festival and I was in a queue for a no-show ticket. But I’ve come from Australia for this! It was full last night, so don’t worry you’ll probably get in! Two performances only!!!

So off to have a beer, a snack and to calm my nerves. I’m constantly surprised by the variation of prices – this beer and little meat pie for €2.50 compared to a taxi ride of €20 illustrates tourist high need and high prices. This taxi driver wanted to drive me to my next destination, Merida, for €1000! My express bus ticket is €13.00.

Outside on the terrace to indulge this new found economy, but, alas, no table space. While I was quite willing to stand and people watch, the English speaking, German customer in the queue before me invited me to take his table. Thank you, but please stay here with me. Have you come especially for this festival? So have I. And so starts a lengthy conversation about festivals we have been to and our desire to see this show. When I tell him I couldn’t get a ticket, he disappears to the box office and returns with a ticket for €15.

Stefan Schmidtke, as a co-artistic director of the Vienna Festival, is responsible for the drama programme, and is here to view this show for Vienna 2015. He travels the world looking for product.  It transpires that he is very knowledgeable about the state of Australian theatre and how comparatively impoverished it is from the lack of the type of government support that exists in Europe. However, he was most complementary about the  success of Simon Stone’s The Wild Duck in Vienna in 2013.

Stefan was of course the ideal theatre companion and we sat together in the show. And what a great show it was. We had both agreed that theatre in foreign languages that we don’t understand can often determines the quality and effectiveness of theatre and this was no exception. Presented in French with Portuguese surtitles and without an interval, this was a tour de force on scenes from heterosexual relationships. Sometimes it was high French film comedy and at others kitchen sink tragedy, plus the use of many other theatrical devices including a high camp chanteuse, the arrival of carnival dodge ’em cars, all delivered with the slickest/seamless technical transitions I have ever seen.

To explain the title, The Reunification of the Two Koreas, is a metaphor for the geographical/political tension that exists in relationships. To further the metaphor, the space is divided in a bi frontal set up in which the audience is looking at each other over a transverse corral. It is most effective and facilitates the elements of surprise so imaginatively orchestrated with lights and sound.

This show is an outstanding piece of theatre. The actors, mostly mature, are relentless in their energy and versatility in taking on a range of characters that just keep adding layers to the theatrical premise. I’m sure Stefan will pick it up for Vienna, (he was off to talk to the production manager, while I went to find a cab) and we can only hope that it makes it to Australia perhaps for a Melbourne International  Festival. However, I can’t see the Arts Centre using its stage for the presentation at the expense of it’s 2 thousand seater auditorium. At Almada, the show was presented on the stage of the very beautiful Barbican-style theatre. And this show would never work in a conventional set up. Sadly for me I won’t get to see a show in the theatre proper on this occasion but I will definitely return to the Almada Festival  to see more of this style of work. And sadly, too, I was so caught up in the immediacy of the unfolding events, I did not take one photo! So this post has a collection of random Lisbon and Cascais shots.

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And this is what this travel is all about, seeing the world and seeing world theatre. And although I have deliberately chosen to see fewer shows this year, so far the things I have seen have been stand outs.

Tomorrow I travel to Merida to see a Flamenco version of Medusa in the Roman Ampitheatre. It too is sold out and I’m expecting it to be outstanding.

 

 

Lisbon


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Lisbon is an extraordinarily beautiful city. The wide boulevards  and the beautiful pavement decoration is very enticing. And so too is the Portuguese charm. Not having a word of Portuguese, I bought a dictionary at the airport and pressed on from there.

My hotel is situated among the designer stores, all of which have sales and whether it was my lowly status as a tourist or whether it is store protocol, I was not pounced upon by eager sales personnel. I’m a hopeless shopper, and never seem to have enough time to do it properly, so my loss, I probably miss out on some great bargains.

The flight into Lisbon was late so I could only just settle into the hotel with the best g & t ever before going on my pre arranged tour of Lisbon followed by dinner at a Fado restaurant, and what an experience that was.imageimage

The tour was useful in quickly contextualising the city, but the Fado was truly wonderful. With 5 different singers and 2 musicians, it seemed like an extended family of bohemians who have managed to serve the local as well as the tourist market without losing authenticity. And with the women singers in particular, the fado form was everything I could hope for.

Dinner was traditional food, potato soup which was very good indeed, followed by 2 fishy dishes or a steak dish. My fishy meal was huge and when questioned as to why I hadn’t finished it, I had to pantomime my limited capacity rather than offend the proprietor by any inadequacy on his part. The wine flowed and so did the music, song after song, occasionally joined in by a chorus from the kitchen. For me this was one of my most memorable experiences.

Sadly the lighting prohibited good photography, but here is the chanteuse to die for and her partner/owner of the establishment. image

Day 7 Epidavros to Athens


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This is the last morning of freshly squeezed orange juice from the orchard, the sound of cicadas and the greeting of the great orb of the sun across the sea undisturbed by buildings or other trappings of 21 century modernity. The comparative simplicity of this place is seductive while my sophistication screams is this all there is? It is curious that on a quest to discover theatre, I have found that theatre has become a part of that sophistication. Emanating from the heights and simplicity of the Peloponnese, theatre today has mostly become a big city phenomenon. But that’s another discussion.

Leaving Ancient Epidavros en route to Nafplio, I again passed through Lygourioimage and was able to spend some time in the natural history museum. It certainly contextulised the mineral wealth of Ancient Greece, which in turn financed wars as well as architectural and other development. Lygourio, situated in the ancient kingdom of Lessa, is purported to be of such antiquity, that it was from its mountain top,’ that the last fryktoria lit to deliver the message of the fall of Troia…’

Descending from the Peloponnese into the gracious harbour city of Napflio is a gradual re introduction into the sophistication of Greece despite the constant reminders of the past with not only a Venetian fortification in the harbour, but also another immense fort- like edifice on the mountain behind the town.
Significant as being the first capital city of Greece established by the First National Assembly in 1821 which voted for a democratic constitution, it is very beautiful indeed. image

From there a bus ride to Athens and instant immersion into the hustle and bustle of this vibrant and enthralling city.

The Fresh Hotel, a comparatively new and ultra modern architectural and design establishment, has a Barcelona feel of clean lines and colour in comparison to some of the 4 stars which are very indulgent and charge for wi-fi! And besides, the Fresh is just off Athinas, which is a great street and links Omonia with the Plaka, and Psiri is just parallel to it. So it’s a great area as I hope the photos will show.  It really is foodie heaven!

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imageSpeaking of shows, the festival offering that got my attention (and my Euros) was a German symphony orchestra with a Mozart and R. Strauss programme happening in the Odeon of Herodus Atticus. A fabulously balmy evening in the open air Roman theatre, it was an appropriate rendition for those patrons rushing off to see Germany play in the World Cup.

imageBeing in this auditorium was a first for me and was worth the rush to secure a ticket. And once more I just love post-show Athens. The ability to wander the streets, to grab a taxi, or just keep walking in this beautiful heat until a bar/ restaurant grabs your eye, seems quite unique.

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Just now I’m sitting in the rooftop bar with an almost full moon overlooking the Acropolis.

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I’ve spent the day indulging myself with shopping and taking photos. Oh, I did go to the Fish Spa for a foot massage and to feed the fish! A very welcome respite from the walking.

It’s been a great day and now this evening I pack up again in preparation for Lisbon tomorrow.

 

Day 6 The Sites and Sights of Epidavros


DAY 6 THE SITES AND SIGHTS OF EPIDAVROS

Last year when I was here, I only got to the big Ancient Ampitheatre, so this year I’ve set out to specifically explore the Little Ancient Theatre and The Sanctuary of Asklepius. Hence the reason for staying in this little piece of paradise. This whole area is steeped in the myths and legends of antiquity which come to life in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes. The very gulf I am viewing as I write, has its own mythical origins and gods as do the surrounding mountains and plateaux. It is a very magical place. I keep looking out to sea for the dolphin that transported Arion, the creator of the first dithyrambs. image

 

Of course the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is the most famous theatre in the world and it originated in the mid 4 century BC as an adjunct to the Asklipieio to house the performances dedicated to Asklepius worship. The Asklipieio is a healing sanctuary and theatre dedicated to Asklepius (the god of the healing arts) was in itself regarded as a healing art form.

imageThe site is huge, the theatre alone which seats up to 14,000 people overlooks the valleys below and the sanctuary is an entire healing city perched on an acropolis high in the Peloponnese. Another of the healing arts is evidenced in the huge athletics stadium as well as the fountains, the bathhouse, the dormitory, the communal eating house, an infectious diseases sanitarium, temples to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, healing and death, and Themis, goddess of divine justice, order and customs, as well as to Asklepius and Apollo (god of music, healing, poetry and more.)

What a highly sophisticated expression of 4th and 3rd century human well being.

Sadly the natural history museum in the little village of Lygourio was closed by the time I arrived. It is reputed to have one of the finest collections of 3-5 million year old fossils from Greece and other parts of Europe. Once more I was interested in exploring how the minerals and other artefacts are represented in dramatic literature. There is so much to see and digest.

Finally (and I actually did this first, because it is just along the road from Hotel Hellini) there is the Small Theatre of Epidavros. Discovered as recently as 1971, with seating for up to 2000 people it was built in the 4th century BC in honour of Dionysis. It is considered yet another example of  th e Ancient Greek belief of the perfection in life and art: harmony, balance. During the Roman period the names of donors and officials were inscribed into the benches,giving rise to the term ‘talking  theatre’. A Roman statue unearthed near the small theatre in 2011, enlivens the notion of the continuation of Greek culture into the Roman period which is also present in the Asklipieio.

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This was another big day fortified by ice cream by day and ouzo at night in the village where a local art and craft market occurs every weekend in July. Very beautiful artefacts as well as jams and olive oil and plants.

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Another good day in this rural idyll.

 

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

Day 3. Homers Walk

imageimageHonour Odysseus

My day started with Yanna poking her beautiful smiling face in my bedroom window.

Brenda? Brenda?

Give me 5 minutes. Please make the plastic coffee.

Plastic coffee is take away and it was delicious.

Up and out of Vathi over the mountain to the next village with absolutely stunning views of the next harbour and the next and the next. The azure blue of the sea is hypnotic and a good distraction from the small winding road.

Suddenly we were in Stavros. A really lovely village and waiting by the monument to Odysseus was our walk guide, Ester and a group of 5 Italian women who were sailing around the Greek islands from Bolonga. It transpired that one of them was an archeologist which was very useful for this walk. And she had very good English.

The walk was a 4 hour return hike to the archeological site of Homers School where he supposedly taught the art of story telling and writing. Putting Homer in context, he wrote some 400 years after the Trojan Wars, the stories of which had been kept alive by oral storytellers until the arrival of the alphabet. So Homer in effect brings Greece out of the Dark Ages.

For me the context is also one of place. Having been to the supposed Palace of Agamemnon in Mycenae last year, the prospect of finding Odysseus’ palace on Ithaca is equally enchanting. Of course I’m aware that there are many that say the whole thing is a myth and that none of it existed. And while that may be true, for me the fascination is of Agamemnon walking up the palace entrance to reach his demise by the hand of his wife, Clytmenestra, a grisly tale told in Sophocles’ Agamemnon and Aeschylus’ The Orestia and Odysseus returning home to find his dog, his nurse and Penelope, each with a distinctive response to his arrival. Euripides Cyclops has a humorous bent to the saga.

While the palace at Mycenae is huge with its Lion Gate and cyclops stones, the supposed Palace of Odysseus, very rudimentally excavated and far from universal archeological acceptance, is very small and perched high on a hill overlooking two harbours. However as we discovered, after taking the 300 year old donkey track up to the summit, there are some distinctive Mycenaean characteristics. There are cyclops stones, there are beehive tombs and the ruins indicate small storage areas in the lower part of the complex. And significantly there is a Linear B tablet honoring Odysseus not only as a King but as a god which indicates the existence of an Odysseus cult.

Sadly all excavation has now ceased and even the most recent archeological dig is quickly becoming a ruin. Some significant artifacts havebeen unearthed and there is a very small  museum dedicated to displaying some of the findings. So despite the contentions from whoever and wherever, this journey to Homers School and The Palace of Odysseus was a great day for me. Beautiful scenery, intellectual stimulation, great exercise and terrific company. Many of you would absolutely love this trek. Perhaps next time.

imageimageimageimage     As a P.S. Our guide has chosen to live in Stavros because it is a fully functioning Greek village. It certainly is charming.

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Day 2, Sami to Vathi

Too nervous that I would miss the only ferry from Sami to Ithaca, and putting my fate in the hands of an early morning taxi driver, I awoke early, packed and paced in reception. The little English speaking concierge made me a coffee and I paced some more. Still no taxi. Can we call the taxi and see if he is on his way? A few minutes more. The ferry is leaving later this morning.

Little comforted, I finished the very good coffee and enquired where I buy the ferry ticket.
There, at Sami.
Oh great. A late ferry, rushing for a ticket and still no taxi.
Finally a shining silver Mercedes arrives and off we go. The driver also tells me the ferry will leave later today. They were, of course, all correct.
The ticket man had not even opened his shop and I had a ninety minute wait till ferry time. So a leisurely breakfast in a free wifi restaurant on the waterfront, connected me with the world and allayed my anxiety.
When the ferry did arrive it spewed an array of vehicles ranging from garbage trucks, buses and bicycles and eagerly consumed an equally colorful cargo including my favorite, an old ute full of onions and garlic. From this I learnt that virtually all food on Ithaca comes from elsewhere.
And then the journey across the Ionian Sea from the biggest island to the smallest which took about 40 minutes only. Again the disgorging of the cargo at a very dismal port,Pisoaotos, and another taxi ride up and over the mountains to the capital, Vathi.
My companions this time, a Nona and her 12 year old daughter from New York, returning to Ithaca for the summer. The sublime beauty of Vathi can only be described in comparison to the plainness of elsewhere, and here at last was my imagined Odysseus’ Ithaca. Or is it Homers? Much speculation remains as to the authenticity of the location and Ithaca is totally disputed by the larger island of Kephalonia.
For me, upon arrival at the Odyssey Apartments high on a hill and overlooking the harbour, my Ithaca adventure had begun.
A long stroll along the waterfront revealed a bust of Homer, a statue of Odysseus, the same sort of tourist traders as on all the islands, and the three bars that constitute Ithaca’s nightlife. This is far from a tourist mecca: too hard to get to, too expensive, and a life of simple origin that flourishes only in summer.
My hosts deserve a mention for they have indeed welcomed me with a level of companionship that makes the life of a solo traveller rich and rewarding. The apartments are superb and the view from my window and terrace has shown Vathi in all her moods. The intensity or subtlety of the colours and the changing temperament of the wind and sea is totally captivating.
Today I made contact with a Dutch woman, Ester, now a resident on Ithaca, who conducts walks on the island. Incidentally this contact came from Anna in Australia through her cousin Erika in the north of Ithaca to Ester one village away from Vathi. The upshot is that tomorrow I can join her on the Homer Walk. Sadly for me the walk starts at 8.30am in a village a 25 euro taxi ride away, which, with the cost of the walk and a return taxi fare (there is only one bus per day) it is quite an expensive exercise. But worth it I think. In an ideal world I should have hired a car to give me more access to the remainder of island but my plan was to rest up here and not have the anxiety of driving on the right side of the road and the stress of getting lost!
But the gods smiled on me and my host, Ari, suggested that his beautiful wife, Yanna, take me in their car and that Yanna join me on the walk – something that she has always wanted to do and good pr for their business and for Ester’s. Joy oh joy!
And so another quick meal by the harbour and to bed to get ready for my next Homeric adventure.

Sami WaterfrontCaptain Corelli's, SamiIthaca BoundVathi HarbourHomerOdysseusThe WaterfrontFrom my Balcony

Day 1 Melbourne to Sami, Greece

Day 1 Melbourne to Sami

It’s 5.30 am and somewhere in the distance cocks are crowing. And while it is still dark outside, the gentle breeze wafting through the open shutters stirs my thoughts to Homer, Odysseus and of course to being here on Ithaca. To get to Ithaca, one really wants to be here. It has been quite a 21 century Homeric quest, that for me, started in Melbourne over a year ago when I met an Ithacan at a New Year’s Eve party.

With a deep interest in place and its significance in literature and in particular, Greek tragedy, I was compelled to make the metaphoric homecoming to this island in the Ionian Sea. In comparison to the ease with which much travel is accomplished, in many ways it has not been easy. Ithaca is not one of the big tourist islands. It is small and it’s inaccessibility,compounded by the Greek government austerities, make the journey somewhat epic.
Leaving the wintery squalls of Melbourne behind, the comfort of Etihad airlines provided me with many hours sleep on the Abu Dhabi leg, while the greater comfort of a sky bus into Athens, also afforded the opportunity of more relaxed companionship.
It is not surprising that many of the passengers were of the Greek diaspora, returning home. My seating companion was a first generation Australian of parents from Lesbos. He is undertaking a double degree in Engineering and Law at Monash. A vitally interesting young man with sound world views, a vast range of knowledge and a profound sense of purpose, he provided me with a sense of security for the future. Already on the Deans List, his humble background as the son of an immigrant Chicken Bar proprietor, evoked the manner in which the Greeks have traditionally dispersed their culture and values for the good of humankind. For deeply entrenched in Greek culture is the notion of living the best life and all that that entails. As an Anglo Saxon, it presents a very different perspective to me. Mine is a world of restriction, the Greek world seems to be one of expansion premised on aesthetics, hospitality, logic and trade. For without trade, Ancient Greece, like modern day Greece, could not survive. As a seafaring mercantile nation by virtue of its geographical location, Ancient Greece not only serviced its empire and beyond with goods, it also provided the culture of civilization and the ideal of the best life.

Enter Homer, with his fantastic tales of war, godly interventions and upsets, divine justice and right conduct. Written some 400 years before the great Greek tragedians immortalized the sagas and characters on the ancient stage, Homer is credited with shaping the Ancient Greek spirit of humanism, including the notion of honor and noble death.

Curiously, my reading material on the plane was Euripides’ Helen, the play I will be seeing at the Epidavros ampitheatre at the end of the week. Totally immersed in the reason for the Trojan Wars, the narrative depicts a fantastical ending to the saga with Menelaus finding Helen in Egypt – and I still have to find out who kills who at the end – a really great read!

But of course within that context is the Odyssey and Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan War. Bearing in mind Odysseus’ initial objection to go to war over a woman, Homer places him in many ‘womanly’ situations which have led to much speculation over truth, faithfulness, duty and human urges. (Remembering that it was Odysseus who delivered the Trojan Horse.)

Continuing on from Athens in a light aircraft, the flight not only provided more examples of the Greek equivalent of Bon Accord, through the delights of the flight attendant, but the physicality of the flight took me across the Peloponnese with the starkness of the Spartan mountains (Helen of Troy was a Spartan) and deposited me on the island of Kephalonia. From there a 60 Euro taxi ride, up over the mountains and down into the seaport of Sami (of Captain Corelli fame). And then you come out of the mountains and see the sea and Ithaca is directly opposite. She looks like a shrouded jewel beckoning you.

That was Day 1, concluded by an evening meal at a taverna on the waters edge, a walk back to the hotel in the pitch black of night in a village without street lighting, and preparations for the early morning departure on the ferry for Ithaca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All The Worlds A Stage Theatre Tours 2014

A room with a view.
A room with a view.
Dear Friends & Followers, this first post is coming from Ithaca Greece, with some retrospective posts to follow due to the unavailability of internet. The story goes that the ‘power’ people are restricting internet in protest to the austerity measures of wage cuts…I guess they do have a lot of power..!
This year I’m fine tuning the tour that is offered for 2015 with visits to proposed sites and accommodation that I didn’t do in 2013. I’ve also built in some considerable r&r. Like now I’m just sitting outside my apartment with nothing to do but look at the view and take advantage of the internet while it’s happening. This is nothing short of idyllic and I certainly wish you were here!
More following and please enjoy.
B.

Everything You Need To Know About Greek Theatre

Dear Friends and Followers,

This is a very presumptuous title and certainly something I can’t deliver in one post, but let me tell you how it came about.

As a result of my offer to have people join me on my next trip to Greece, one dear friend said ‘but I don’t know anything about Greek theatre!’ Well of course I was shocked, not by her lack of knowledge, but by my presumption that everyone does know about Greek theatre! And for this I am deeply sorry. So of course this started me thinking about how I became so enamoured of Greek theatre and how I could perhaps help others to make the journey to Ancient Greek theatre. Now there are many friends who may read this who have much more knowledge of Greek theatre than I, and I’ve never considered myself an expert on the form, just an incurable devotee.

So how did it begin? Many years ago, an Australian actress, Zoe Caldwell, played Medea. Through a curious 6 degrees of separation, Caldwell was someone my sister knew and therefore our family was rubbing elbows with someone famous. Well all of that aside, Caldwell was exalted as a Medea of her time and as a youngster, all of that stuck. In more recent years, well perhaps 10 or so years ago, the Antipodes Festival brought a National Theatre of Greece production to the Princess Theatre in Melbourne and I sat in the gods to watch my first first-hand experience of Greek Theatre and it just happened to be Medea. (And how curious I should be sitting in the gods!) This production (indelibly etched in my memory) was delivered in Greek with English surtitles. Medea was a mesmerising figure in red and I was truly hooked. Never had I been so on the edge of my seat in theatre. How can I account for the chills up the back of the neck, the agony of the drama and the magic of the spoken word?  Well I can’t. And that is the marvel of theatre – any theatre. It’s that thing that makes you love it so much that you are willing to forgive it when it disappoints you and to be ever looking forward to the next thrilling moment that takes you on that magical/transformational journey of the senses and the emotions.  But enough! Back to my journey of Greek theatre and the University of Melbourne where I was graciously accepted as a mature age student to do a Post Grad Dip and then a Research Masters in Theatre Studies. Many of you reading this, know me from those days and even shared those times with me and will possibly remember how obsessed I was with the Greek theatre form. Strangely, to this day, I have never performed in Greek theatre, but I have written about it and I even included the form in my co-authoring contribution to the play Quilting the Armour – The Story of the Kelly Women, which became the basis of my Masters thesis: From Ancient Greece to Glenrowan: History, Theatre and the Modern Community. So you could say that Greek theatre has sort of lived with me for a rather long time. It’s been like an uncoiling serpent, or perhaps it’s more like the self reflexive Ourobous that I discovered at Delphi, i.e. the composite of my inner world of mystical enquiry, the intuitive attunement of an actor/artist, and that of the enquiring academic.  But whatever it is, the Greek form, the Greek texts, the Greek mythology and the very physicality of Ancient Greek theatre, coupled with the mystery and metaphor associated with Ancient Greek place, have been the impulses that have driven me to explore, and adore, this ancient form of theatre. I most certainly do not know everything you need to know about Greek theatre, but if it is something you might like to know more about, perhaps we can start a forum or a google hangout video call where we can discuss it. Alternatively, I’m happy to create posts from time to time about Greek theatre that might whet your appetite to ultimately come to Greece and discover more about it for yourself. So please forgive my assumption that everyone knows about Greek theatre and believe me when I say I’m really happy to share any knowledge that I might have to allow you to savour and enjoy this most ancient form of theatre. Please get back to me with your comments and ideas. You might also get some ideas or questions from visiting http://www.alltheworldsastagetheatretours.com

 

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.

Peter Handke wins Ibsen Award

This is a belated acknowledgement of the 2014 Ibsen Award going to Peter Handke. Announced on Ibsen’s birthday, March 20, the award blurb mentions that Handke could be regarded as the antithesis of Ibsen. However, it further suggests that there is a literary similarity in that both playwrights are sensors of the fabric of society. http://www.internationalibsenaward.com/winners/peter-handke/

In his video acceptance of the award, Handke illustrates this sensory perception by wondering why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize… http://vimeo.com/89543851

Personally, my life has been greatly enriched by both playwrights – and while their expression of the form couldn’t be greater, they both have at their writerly fingertips that special magic that touches humanity.

Currently I’m investigating a visit to Oslo in August-September for the International Ibsen Festival. Are there any Ibsen lovers who might care to join me?

World Theatre Day 27 March

On 27 March the International Theatre Institute (ITI) – the world organisation for performing arts, once again celebrated World Theatre Day.

Please visit http://www.world-theatre-day.org/ for a video recording of the oration made by South African playwright Brett Bailey.  It is available in 15 languages and truly expresses the theatre impulse from time immemorial and the wondrous opportunities for theatre in the 21st century global village.

http://www.world-theatre-day.org/en/authors.html provides a list of the orators and their speeches from the inception of the celebration in 1962 when Jean Cocteau was the presenter.  The list is an impressive assemblage of people who have contributed to world theatre. On World Theatre Day, 2010, Judi Dench suggested ‘in many ways every day should be considered a theatre day, as we have a responsibility to continue the tradition to entertain, to educate and to enlighten our audiences, without whom we couldn’t exist.’

May every day be a theatre day for you.

 

 

 

 

Melbourne Fringe 2013

Tragedy of Lucrece_Flier 2The Tragedy of Lucrece by Enzo Condello.

Originally posted September, 2013.

Melbourne Fringe is always an exciting time for independent theatre makers and this year I found myself swept up in the hubbub of getting a show on.  Having only recently returned from my travels abroad, Enzo Condello contacted me to direct his play. The pre-production/rehearsal time frame was perilously short but on reading the play, I was determined to stage it against the odds.  It is a work of momentous proportion employing Condello’s rich language and verse style based on Livy’s account of the rape of Lucrece.

The 500BC event is best known through Shakespeare’s some 1800-line poem which laboriously expresses the pain and anguish of the sexual assault. Many renditions have been made of the work, including Benjamin Britten’s 1946 opera, The Rape of Lucrecia.

As a director, I couldn’t help but wonder why Shakespeare, a master tragedian, did not make a drama of the work?  Rape, of course, is horrendous in any era and it is the perpetuation of the crime across millennia that gives an urgency to Condello’s work that not only reflects human violation but the violation of nature:

‘Uncontrolled, power-poisoned man, pollutes
Slashes and scars the modest face of nature too… ‘

In pursuing Livy’s account of the event, which led to the overthrow of the Tarquin dynasty and the establishment of the Roman Republic, Condello has provided the ray of hope that perhaps might permeate our civilisation as to the barbaric evil and insanity of uncontrolled lust.

As a director,  three small words in the stage directions of the script, ‘He rapes her.’ , provided the greatest challenge to my maintaining human decency and delicacy while at the same time delivering the horror of the event.   And while some readers of this blog may yet attend a performance of the play, I will simply state that multimedia provided a powerful solution that traverses 2500 years of assault against women and nature.  With a powerful and unnerving soundscape composed by Ted Kazan, the sequence situates rape in the now.

I believe Condello’s Tragedy of Lucrece is a play for now. It clearly demonstrates not only the prolongation of patriarchal dominance in power, but the consequential humiliation and indignity that besets a victim seeking justice.

While the limitations of a Melbourne Fringe production can provide little more than a studio representation of the work, it is my ardent desire that a major production company can recognise the currency in the piece and bring Lucrece centre stage to take her rightful place alongside those other indomitable tragic figures, Medea, Lucia de Lammermore and Lady Macbeth.  And in so-doing iterate the value of theatre in our overly mediatised existence.

The Tragedy of Lucrece is world theatre looking for a world stage.

Theatre and Space

Theatre and space traverse the distance of the everyday.

Thinking on the nature of the theatre space and its’ impact on performance and the audience, in the first instance I always look for the beauty. Beauty feeds the soul. It is colour and form and tone and gesture. It is inherent in the grand gesture of nature as in grand opera that stirs the emotions with its opening phrases or in the vast landscapes of a Tolstoy novel. In their profound wisdom, the ancient Greeks combined nature and landscape within the theatre space and with the added exertion of making the pilgrimage to the sacred site, theatre lovers would enter the liminal. Whatever happened after that, by way of performance, was duty-bound to traverse the distance of the everyday. To transport the audience to places, emotions, rarely encountered.
Historically theatre architecture preceded that of cathedrals and yet the evocation of awe is the same. Two great monuments to art that have been featured on television recently, Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and the Sydney Opera House, both provide me with that sense of the liminal, of entering alternative space, a place where I may be transmuted from the cares of the everyday, a place where I engage with other or the sublime. After all isn’t that the reason we go to a Cathedral or to a theatre? But let’s stick with theatre just now because I’ve had some really interesting theatre space experiences recently.
Over drinks my dear theatre friend, David Adamson, commented on my European theatre travels and suggested that it was the drama of the theatre spaces that contributed to the richness of the experience. And indeed on reflection that is so. The Epidavros Ampitheatre, the open-air Corral in Almagro, the medieval Teatro Francesco Torti in Bevagna, a village near Spoleto, and even the factory site spaces in Athens mightily contributed to the tenor of the theatre works.
In my thesis From Ancient Greece to Glenrowan etc, I included the element of place but my attention to the space was more directed to our cleverness in converting a community hall into a theatre space. However, the conversion was intentional in creating a sense of the liminal and with great dollops of creativity and volunteer man power, the transformation was affected. Great design work by Peter Mumford.
And this brings me to two of my recent theatre space experiences. Room of Regret based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (devised and directed by Emma Valente) was an offering of The Melbourne Festival. Staged at Theatreworks in St.Kilda, the space was converted into a labyrinth of small rooms into which the audience members, veiled in curtain fabric, were ushered and instructed to sit upon the waiting stools. Actors appeared somewhat randomly in the small rooms and did beautiful work. They were truly beautiful in their posture, gesture, vocal delivery and ecstatic eroticism, but for me, the space defeated the majesty of the production. Hidden away in a corner, veiled, and deposited on a stool except when I was invited to dance in an orgiastic sequence, there was no sense of space. No opportunity to connect with or truly experience the wonder of the grandeur of gesture or tone and while I can appreciate the notion of closed Victorian spaces and what goes on behind veil curtains, my sense of wonder was replaced by a sense of frustration, irritation and audience abuse. In my reflection, I wonder if the piece would have been more suited to in-the-round or traverse staging where the audience could also have the ‘in your face’ experience the direction mandated. Sadly, for me, this production was unable to traverse the distance of the everyday.
A more successful use of space was the National Theatre’s Macbeth. Once again I made the pilgrimage to the Nova, Carlton to see the HD relay of Kenneth Brannagh’s production.
Expecting a traditional production, imagine my surprise when I discovered it to be in a disused church in Manchester. The nave was transformed into a traverse setting with the sanctuary, a highly appropriate playing area. The balconies, and even the windows, are used to great effect from whence the Witches, Banquo’s ghost and Lady Macbeth deliver their immortal passages.
But back to the traverse, which resembles a muddy racetrack, imagine the audience involvement being adjacent to the numerous real sword wielding battles, the first of which takes place in rain! Yes the turf did become a quagmire and yes the actors strutted through the muck, died in the muck and lied in the muck. This was theatre space from heaven…pardon the intended pun. And although I was only a cinema viewer, I was there in the muck and in the awe of the liminal. If only I’d been there in person. A wonderful experience indeed, where theatre and space did traverse the distance of the everyday.

Autopsy of a Dream

<blockquote><p><a href=”https://twitter.com/abciview”>@abciview</a&gt; this is a marvellous programme thank god the footage was found and that the sydney opera house exists.</p>&mdash; brenda addie (@theatretravel) <a href=”https://twitter.com/theatretravel/statuses/392286528740679680″>October 21, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

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.