Thespians

The Small Theatre of Moni Lazariston hosted for four nights a homage to the late pillar of Greek Literature, Nikos Kazantzakis, in which the Athens-based Mist company tried to translate Captain Michalis «into a theatrical form» and met with quite a few obstacles.

Spoiler

Il Mikro Theatro Moni Lazariston ospita per quattro notti un omaggio al fu pilastro della letteratura greca, Nikos Kazantzakis, nel quale la compagna ateniese Mist tenta di tradurre il Capitan Michele «in forma teatrale» e si trova a dover affrontare non pochi ostacoli.

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Spoiler

Το Μικρό Θέατρο Μονής Λαζαριστόν φιλοξένησε για τέσσερις νύχτες ένα φόρο τιμής στον εκλιπών θεμέλιο της ελληνικής λογοτεχνίας, ο Νίκος Καζαντζάκης, στο οποίο η ομάδα Mist με έδρα την Αθήνα προσπάθησε να μεταφράσει τον Καπετάν Μιχάλης «σε μορφή θεατρικής παράστασης» και συναντήθηκε με αρκετά εμπόδια.

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60 years have passed, but Nikos Kazantzakis is still alive an well in the mind and theatre of these modern Greeks, as shown by the many PanHellenic productions which have taken place throughout 2017, a year which marked a turning point in the very definition of homeland in many and contrasting ways. The “us” versus “them” has become even more of a leitmotiv, unfortunately, and physical as well as spiritual barriers have been put up all around Europe (and Africa, it’s favourite playground) to detain the difference from pouring into the sameness and destroy our beloved uniqueness and superiority. The plight of the refugees, of the 2nd generations feeling 2nd class in their own countries (despite being lawfully its citizens) the haunting sense of “otherness” so magnified by deranged foreign politics and even more lunatic social policies are all so modern, yet so awfully timeless issues, as shown by Kazantzakis’ most widely read book, Captain Michalis (best known as Freedom and Death), where the question of homeland is brought to the fore with an exquisite Cretan touch.

The story, in a nutshell, is that of an occupied Crete under the Ottoman Empire in the year 1889, where men try desperately to free themselves from the oppressor and utterly fail, thus dying as per title. What’s interesting about this novel, however, is not the historical context as much as the timeless and topical human struggle for finding a meaning in life, here declined to its worst and most hideous end: martyrdom for a cause. When the only option to a life of refusal, suffering and racial/nationalist hate seems to be despair or emotional detachment, the attractions of meaningful glorious actions are obvious, especially if undertaken to prove oneself autonomous. And what better way to rebel against an invader if not by declaring the independence of our the bodies, fragments of a nation they will never truly conquer?

As portrayed by the Mist Theatre Company, the play Captain Michalis faithfully reports all the facts and hues of Kazantzakis’ written word, following the idea that in his novel, «the fundamental contrasts of persons, the pure patriotic feeling, love, everyday life (violent and comical at the same time), the repeated uprisings and frustrations, all reveal the anthropological depth of the work and place it out of its historical context, making it timeless and timely as ever». As true as this may be, the pedantry on the one hand and the imaginative medium on the other place this play on very slippery grounds. The former, by way of a verbatim rendering of the novel’s most salient moments, drags the audience on a two-hour long play that hardly manages to keep the attention alive, let alone ascertain the importance of the Cretan’s work in the here and now of our “post-colonized” world, while the latter, boosted exponentially by ancient-Greece lookalike masks, live music, shadow theatre, and the larger-than-life acting of Kostantina Koutoulaki, Niki Doulgeraki, Elias Tsatsaronis, Tina Tzatha and Vasilis Vasilakis, fiercely directs the play into a more extravagant type of representation. Indeed, portrayed as a tragedy, Captain Michalis tends to swing between a very serious act (which misses the target for lack of analysis) and a humoristic entertainment (which misses the target for lack of humility) that in trying to do justice to Kazantzakis’ creation, reverently lowers its head and lets the severe Cretan style overflow the scene with all its redundancies.

The show was played at
Small Theatre Moni Lazariston
Kolokotroni 25-27, Stavroupoli – Thessaloniki
from 21 to 24 September 2017
21.30

The company Mist presents
Captain Michalis
director and adaptor for the scene Vasilis Vasilakis
set and costume design Mary Trakaki, Vasilis Vasilakis
music editing Tina Tzatha
photo Christina Sarlami
poster design penny ktena
producer Maria Pilati
cast Kostantina Koutoulaki, Niki Doulgeraki, Elias Tsatsaronis, Tina Tzatha, Vasilis Vasilakis

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