Memory Book

The Thessaloniki Concert Hall, in cooperation with the National Theatre of Northern Greece, gives voice to the silent gravestones of the Spanish Jews that lived, loved and strived in Salonika, singing with pride: I Have Never Forgotten You (Δε Σε Ξέχασα Ποτέ).

Spoiler

La memoria non è un luogo sicuro. Leon A. Nar lo sa bene e per questo affida alla carta i ricordi di una delle tante famiglie di ebrei sefarditi vissute e perite a Salonicco durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Tra vecchie foto ingiallite e fresche canzoni dal sorriso amaro, lo spettacolo Non ti ho mai dimenticata cerca di porsi come un baluardo della memoria storica accessibile a tutti, cedendo però alla tentazione di lasciare che siano i fatti – e non il teatro – a giustificare l’intera opera, offrendo così una roccaforte piena di spifferi.

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Spoiler

Η μνήμη δεν είναι ενα ασφαλές μέρος. Ο Leon A. Nar αυτό το γνωρίζει καλά, συνεπώς, αποφάσισε να εμπιστευτεί στο χαρτί και στο μελάνι τις αναμνήσεις μιας εκ των πολλών οικογενειών Σεφαρδιτών Εβραίων που έζησε και έσβησε στην Θεσσαλονίκη κατα την διάρκεια του Δευτέρου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου. Μέσα απο παλιές, κιτρινισμένες φωτογραφίες και τραγουδώντας φρέσκα τραγούδια με πικρά χαμόγελα, η παράσταση Δεν σε ξέχασα ποτέ παίρνει τον ρόλο ενός προπύργιου ιστορικής ανάμνησης προσιτό σε όλους, ενδίδοντας, ωστόσο, στον πειρασμό του να αφήσει τα γεγονότα – αντί του θεάτρου – να δικαιώσουν ολόκληρο το έργο, προσφέροντας κατ’αυτόν τον τρόπο ένα φρούριο γεμάτο ρωγμές.

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From the Alhambra Decree of 1492 onward, Sephardim Jews poured into Greek territories, settling especially in Thessaloniki, and slowly mixed with local communities, giving birth to a unique melting-pot where «Greek Orthodox Christians, Jews and Ottoman Muslims used to live in peace, like brothers». On 1941, though, when the Germans occupied Greece, their diaspora began once again, ending dramatically in concentration and labour camps. Of those 60,000 people, only 1,200 are still alive nowadays. Ido (Giannis Harissis)’s grandmother is one of them.

With the excuse of a global same-surname reunion of families, the story of Zana (Sophia Kalemkeridou), the grandmother, and Gabi, her lover lost in the quicksand of war, spreads out in front of us, casting a red line between the past and the present, between Ido’s need for an identity and Zana’s undying desire for love. The pictures, video-mapped with peculiar style, and the music, performed by the three amazing performers on stage, all contribute to an extremely familiar atmosphere, where one could even hear the flipping of the pages of that old dusty photo album found in a box somewhere.

Brought to life by Leon A. Nar’s pen, the small family of ex-refugees (even though, as the nephew cleverly wonders, «If they were refugees, am I a refugee too?») takes over the stage, indulging in a mise en abyme where hyperrealism reigns supreme, sometimes to the detriment of a theatrical detachment that – had it been present – might have given the play a stronger hold on the audience’s mind. Indeed, except for some impressive Jim Jarmush-like shots framed by the onstage camera and the very convincing acting of perky nanny Sophia Kalemkeridou, the whole play seems to be struggling to make its point, filled as it is with unnecessary distractions.

«Let’s combine images that narrate the story on their own, sounds that reflect various aspects of Sephardic culture and also prose, into which I “delve” for the first time», says the author in his note, and so it happens. This forced sobremesa, with all its loose elements that stack up onto one another just to fall the next minute, sets out to tackle a difficult theme with perhaps too simplistic an attitude, washing out all the bright colours of the carefully selected (and well researched, linguistic-wise) songs and the potentially heart-wrenching stories into a small glass of tepid, unsurprising, homemade tropes. Maybe a harsher text and a more rigid and honest direction could better support the weight of all those lost souls.

The show was played in
Thessaloniki Concert Hall
25 Martiou & Paralia – Thessaloniki
from 31 March to 2 April 2017
Friday and Sunday, 21.00
Saturday, 18.00 and 21.00

The National Theatre of Northern Greece presents
I Have Never Forgotten You
by Leon A. Nar
directed by Mihalis Sionas
sets-costumes Giannis Katranitsas
lighting and camera instructor Hairs Pallas
video mapping Kleanthis Karapiperis
assistant director Lila Vlachopoulou
production co-ordinator Natalia Lambropoulou
cast Sophia Kalemkeridou, Giannis Harissis
musicians on stage Stella Kampouridou (kaval), Giorgos Minacheilis (kanun), Ilias Sarigiannidis (lute)

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