Quicksand

Following the frothy wake of their latest creation, the artists behind Res Ratio Network – lead once again by director Efi Birba – continue their research for deconstruction and reconstruction of the word through the body, pushing the rules of the game to their limit and watching them break onto the blasé escapism of the audience.

 

Greek Abstract

Ακολουθώντας τους αφρώδεις απόηχους της τελευταίας τους δημιουργίας, οι καλλιτέχνες πίσω από το Res Ratio Network – οδηγούμενοι και πάλι από την σκηνοθέτη Έφη Μπίρμπα – συνεχίζουν την έρευνά τους για την αποδόμηση και ανακατασκευή της λέξης μέσω του σώματος, ωθώντας τους κανόνες του παιχνιδιού στα όρια τους και βλέποντας τους να σπάνε πάνω από την μπλαζέ φυγή των θεατών.

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Italian Abstract

Sulla spumosa scia della loro ultima creazione, gli artisti del Res Ratio Network – guidati ancora una volta dalla regista Efi Birba – continuano la loro ricerca di decostruzione e ricostruzione della parola attraverso il corpo spingendo le regole del gioco fino al limite e guardandole infrangersi sull’apatico fuggi fuggi del pubblico.

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«Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays», averred Schiller in his On the Aesthetic Education of Man, anticipating the famous and seminal nomenclature of Homo Ludens given by Dutch      historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga. According to the late professor, play – a primary yet not necessary condition of the generation of culture – presents 5 fundamental characteristic: play is free, is in fact freedom; play is not “ordinary” or “real” life; play is distinct from “ordinary” life both as to locality and duration; play creates order, is order, play demands order absolute and supreme; play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it.

Within these speculations, it is fairly obvious to see the connection that Greek director Efi Birba made between the taxonomical classification of the Dutch and the main character of one of the first examples of novels in the history of mankind, i.e. the Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. «In the 23rd chapter of the 2nd book, Don Quixote, a tragic figure and incarnation of genuine inwardness, is captured to clear a vertical path into the depths of Montesino’s cave, where imaginary confrontations lie. Having put aside every common fear and defying the risk of drowning, he enters voluntarily a place of experience with the attire of the wandering knight as the child enters an environment governed by peculiar rules of the game. With the excuse of the descent and the occult, sleep-walking wanderings of Don Quixote-Homo Ludens in the cave environment, we watch a sequence of episodes under the peculiar rules of the game, where everything multiplies as they are constantly reflected in the mirrors of an idiomatic vision of reality, where everything is connected through the vertical axis of the descent to the greater idea of life».

Faithful to her stunning artistic vision, Birba reproduces an ideal space for her own playful knight to explore the limits of realty through his own, personal rules of the game, creating an evident analogy between playfulness and “madness”, meant here as the free, voluntary and unconventional interpretation of reality according to non-shared rules and obligations. Just like with the previous oeuvre, Richard II, Res Ration Network insists on liberating itself from the text and just keeping its significance in the present tense, that is in the body and movements of its interpreters who, amidst a sea of sand and an inevitable steep slope on the scene (a shared trademark in contemporary Greek theatre), flow and ebb like incessant waves with and around the lanky Aris Servetalis, who plays the role of the Poet of actions. By dint of swift contact improvisation gestures and physical theatre, the cast embarks in a two-hours long game of mirth and materiality in which Don Quixote reigns supreme and at the same time is slave of his own unbending rules of chivalrous virtue.

As purported by the main actor in a recent interview: «The hero’s confrontations are the same as the confrontations of a child in front of a new challenge, in front of a material that, with his imagination, is transformed into something new, perhaps paradoxical. […] The performer aims at his direct and absolute correlation with the material». In his play-acting, Don Quixote tries then to match the unmatchable, to match the factual reality to his own fictional world which he creates by fusing various purely fictional texts, and to regulate this fictional world by rules he himself sets to be free. Here lies the paradox, here’s the rub, and here’s the limit of Birba’s research.

The freedom of game, a freedom which expresses itself within precise rules, is the quintessential paragon of the paradoxical human condition portrayed by Miguel de Cervantes: it is the moral ambiguity of the world and the profound helplessness of men in judging other men that allowed this errant knight to live all of his rocambolesque adventures and forget where the limit between fiction and reality lies. It is the wisdom of uncertainty, the euphoria arising from recognising the relativity of human affairs, the bizarre pleasure that derives from the certainty of having no certainties, that imbued the geniuses of Rabelais and Cervantes, of Flaubert and Kafka with that simple and disarming awareness that pours out of their works of art.

Humour – that which makes ambiguous everything it touches – and its lack thereof is perhaps the major shortcoming of this Don Quixote, Book 2, Chapter 23, a “serious” performance that solipsistically focuses on the act without seeing the consequence, trapped in a void circularity that does not include the audience in its development (already alienated by choosing German as the language of the non-linear and convoluted narration), perhaps forgetting that Don Quixote would be just a deranged old man without his Sancho Panza, just like a book would be just a pile of paper without its reader.

 

The show is playing at
Thessaloniki Concert Hall
Martiou 25 & Paralia – Thessaloniki
from 14 to 17 February 2019
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 21.00

the Piraeus Municipal Theatre presents
Don Quixote, Book 2, Chapter 23 – Δον Κιχώτης, Βιβλίο 2ο, Κεφ. 23ο

by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

director, dramaturgy, set designer, costume designer Efi Birba
cast Aris Servetalis, Achilleas Chariskos, Ioanna Toumpakari, Alexandros Vardaxoglou, Sofia Georgovasili, Dafni Antoniadou, Kyriakos Salis
texts Michaila Pliaplia, Effi Rabsilber, Efi Birba
lighting designer Giorgos Karvelas
composer, sound designer Constantine Skourlis
assistant director Marianna Ellina
assistant set designer Myrto Lamprou
assistant costume designer Dafni Iliopoulou
in cooperation with the Piraeus Municipal Theatre

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