Brand New Ancients

Ever since 1998, the genius of Thomas Vinterberg (member of the Danish mavericks-only filmmaking movement Dogme 95) has been haunting us with his Festen, a raw, verité drama revolving around a terrible secret kept hidden behind the social clutches of a well-off family from Denmark. A few years later, English dramatist David Eldridge adapted the cinematographic oeuvre for the stage, meeting with quite a positive reception, and now, director and actor Giannis Paraskevopoulos brought to the Greek Audience his very own Οικογενειακή Γιορτή (The Celebration), a dazzling take on the family party no one would ever want to attend. This review marks the beginning of a new section for Persinsala, focused on Contemporary Greek Theatre, through which we hope to find the greed and heartbreak and ambition and bravery and love and trespass and contrition of a new, ancient, people.

Spoiler

Una storia è come una festa a cui noi, ascoltatori, siamo invitati a partecipare. È tramite la nostra presenza, in un atto di consumazione, che la storia fa la sua comparsa. La sua creazione, dunque, ci coinvolge completamente, proprio come una festa, e visto che ogni festa è diversa dalle altre, così ognuno di noi interpreta una storia in maniera differente, risuonando a proprio modo. L’Οικογενειακή Γιορτή (Festa in famiglia) di Giannis Paraskevopoulos è una storia consapevole della propria natura, una festa che non pone più un soggetto davanti a un oggetto, ma ci accompagna nell’abbandono totale del contemplarsi, del riguardarsi, anche in atteggiamenti osceni, perché non siamo più in noi, ma in un tutt’uno fuso con l’oggetto. E ci misconosciamo, oltraggiati dalla nostra stessa immobilità.

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Spoiler

Μια ιστορία, είναι όπως μια γιορτή στην οποία εμείς, οι ακροατές, καλούμαστε να συμμετάσχουμε. Μέσω της ίδιας μας παρουσίας, μέσα απο μια πράξη καταναλωτική, η ιστορία κάνει την εμφάνιση της. Η δημιουργία της ιστορίας, λοιπόν, μας συμπεριλαμβάνει ολοκληρωτικά, όπως ακριβώς κάνει μια γιορτή, και εφόσον κάθε γιορτή είναι διαφορετική απο τις άλλες, ο καθένας απο εμάς αποδίδει μια ερμηνεία διαφορετική, που αντηχεί την προσωπικότητα του. Η Οικογενειακή Γιορτή σε σκηνοθεσία του Γιάννη Παρασκευόπουλου είναι μια ιστορία που έχει συναίσθηση της ίδιας της της φύσης, μια γιορτή που δεν τοποθετεί πλέον ένα υποκείμενο μπροστά απο ένα αντικείμενο, αλλά μας συνοδεύει στην ολοκληρωτική εγκατάλειψη που συνεπάγεται η προσωπική ενδοσκόπηση και ο αναστοχασμός – ακόμα και κατά την διάρκεια χυδαίων συμπεριφορών – επειδή δεν είμαστε πια ΄εμείς΄, μα είμαστε ένα με το αντικείμενο. Και απαρνούμαστε αυτό που βλέπουν τα μάτια μας, απεχθανόμενοι την ίδια μας την απραγία.

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Spoiler

Download: Greek Review Οικογενειακή Γιορτή

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«Something is rotten in the state of Denmark»; it was so at the time of Elsinore, Fortinbras and King Claudius, and it still is now that the family patriarch and businessman Helge is turning 60. What has changed, however, is that now the young prince/older son has found the courage to confront his own father without requiring a faux mise en espace to close the mousetrap on him. As a matter of fact, the director himself decided to push back the second art’s boundaries, thus evoking something that was long gone from the scenes; Paraskevopoulos offers what could be defined as a proto-theatrical play, some kind of visceral, gloves-off representation of what was there before the stage was first established: men (and women) telling stories among other men.

Indeed, wanting to find its own dogma, the group lead by the German-born, Thessaloniki-based director chooses to adopt an anthropocentric point of view for the Danish debacle, that is, our point of view. We’re all invited to the party, and we’re called upon to judge, whether we like it or not. The mode of morality within the norm of Helge’s family is that of a fully non-functional social class, with its conventions created mainly to deal with the unpleasant, filthy human nature; something we’re all inured to and that is very hard to circumvent. The night is not at all tender, and in the privacy of a room, demons run amok: broken relationships, ties left untended, worn-out, severed, eyes avoiding eyes, too fearful of finding their own reflection in a mirror which is not quite up to par.

The immersive, in-the-round conception of the space (the foyer of the Theatre of the Society for Macedonian Studies, inside the National Theatre of Northern Greece) forced on the audience, subverts – without so much as by our leave – the theatrical convention which we are all so used to, something done to stimulate rather than entertain. Every coup de theatre is thus assimilated as a blow stricken directly to our hearts, destroying the illusion and dispensing of the need for verisimilitude. Yes, the clothes are there to be worn by actors (magnificent in their Hellenic-clad rapier wit), and yes, the script is zealously respected, but the play, well, «the play’s the thing». The spatial and actorial antagonism that takes place in the relatively small foyer grabs hold of us and turns us into protagonists of this whole drama.

Reality merges with fiction, then, but «aye, there’s the rub». Small talks during the play between actors and spectators may seem as a nifty little expedient of trans-playability, but they are the only actual interaction between men and… other men. Whose to blame, then? The chroniclers of this story seem eager to see us reach out and touch them. They look, blink, smile and cry ever so convincingly. Perhaps us, the casual bystanders, are at fault. How could we not react to the obnoxious mistreatment of a human life? Why don’t we break free from those very same class-reeking chains we so easily define as “wrong”? Why nobody stands up to the call: «Is anybody here?». The Hamletian dilemma still crunches us, then. We refuse to take «arms against a sea of troubles/and by opposing, end them», too dulled by rules, prejudice, comfortable alienation and scot-free onlooking.

We are ancient, yet brand new. We made our own cage, and we’re still asking for permission to leave it. Thankfully, someone, here in Greece, is sounding the alarm.

The show is still playing
Foyer of the Theatre of the Society for Macedonian Studies (ΕΜΣ)

Ethnikis Amynis str. 2 – Thessaloniki
from 18 November 2016 to 5 March 2017
Tuesday 18.00, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 21.00, Sunday 19.00

The National Theatre of Northern Greece (ΚΡΑΤΙΚΟ ΘΕΑΤΡΟ ΒΟΡΕΙΟΥ ΕΛΛΑΔΟΣ) presents
Οικογενειακή Γιορτή (FESTEN)
by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov & Bo hr. Hansen
theatrical adaptation David Eldridge
direction Giannis Paraskevopoulos
translation to the Greek Aliki Danezi Knutsen, Manolis Dounias
lyrics Magdalini Bekri
sets-costumes Sofia Papadopolou
music Manos Mylonakis
movement Alexis Tsiamoglou
lighting Stratos Koutrakis
1st assistant director Aris Ninikas
2nd assistant director Giorgos Chioris
assistant set designer Danai Pana
assistant lighting designers Ifigeneia Gianniou, Athanasia Lazou, Stamatia Sapatori
production co-ordination Eva Koumandraki
cast Christos Stylianou, Stefania Zora, Konstantinos Hatzisavas, Stavroula Arabatzoglou, Konstantinos Liaros, Ioanna Pagiataki, Giolanda Balaoura, Vassilis Spyropoulos, Clio Danae Othoneou, Nikos Kapelios, Alexandros Tsakiris, Nefeli Anthopoulou, Giannis Paraskevopoulos, Vassilis Papageorgiou

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