Tag Archives: Greek Tragedy

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

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.

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

SEE THE WORLD AND SEE WORLD THEATRE

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