No Man’s An Island
Athens-based Theatre of the New World boldly takes in its hands a politically charged text where two souls circumnavigate the same, dead island, looking for a speck of humanity in a paperwork ocean where dues are more important than “who”. Lampedusa, by Anders Lustgarten, washes up on Greek shores, rippling on the self-absorbed waters of Thessaloniki.
Il Teatro del Nuovo Mondo con base ad Atene afferra con coraggio un testo decisamente politico in cui due anime circumnavigano la stessa isola morente in cerca di un briciolo di umanità in questo oceano di burocrazia dove importa quanto devi, non quanto hai da dare. Lampedusa di Anders Lustgarten si spiaggia con violenza sulle coste greche, ondeggiando tra le egoistiche acque tessalonicesi.
Το Θέατρο του Νέου Κόσμου, με έδρα την Αθήνα, παίρνει με τόλμη στα χέρια του ένα πολιτικό κείμενο όπου δύο ψυχές περιπλανούν το ίδιο νεκρό νησί αναζητώντας ένα στίγμα της ανθρωπότητας σε έναν ωκεάνο γραφειοκρατίας, όπου τα χρέη είναι πιο σημαντικά από τους χρεωμένους. Η Λαμπεντούζα του Άντερς Λουστγκάρτεν καταλήγει στις ελληνικές ακτές, κυματίζοντας στα αυτο-απορροφημένα νερά της Θεσσαλονίκης.
In the middle of a milky sea, hanging between many sovereign nations, there’s a small, withered piece of earth that looks like a shrivelled tree. Still, floating, patient. Lampedusa stretches out its branches in the Mediterranean and calls with the enticing voice of dry, European, soil, all those men, women and children who fared the liquid distance to find a solid handhold, someone who could pick them up and save them from the consequences of our own economic colonialism.
The two sea giants who watch over this piece of land represent both sides of this imbalanced act of survival: Stefano, last in a long line of Italian fishermen, and Denise, a Chinese-British woman struggling to make ends meet. The common thread, here – brilliantly tied together by Lustgarten – is that both these human beings have to deal with what we leave behind in order to keep on living. Now that the Mediterranean is dead, the fisherman is forced to find another source of income to support the personal odyssey of his life, and thus becomes a “fisher of men”. Unlike Christ’s followers, however, Stefano leaves the spirituality aside for a much more tangible kind of fishing: retrieving the drowned bodies of migrants from the sea. Way less macabre is Denise’s occupation, who funds her personal higher education with a contemptible job as payday loan collector, thus becoming even more marginalized as she was before, representing one of the most hated minorities in Britain.
The two characters, different for age, social class and upbringing, find themselves on the same scene for they both deal with our earthly remains: the body for him, the wallet for her. The first half of the play reflects then on the harsh reality in which we all find ourselves nowadays, torn between our individual needs and our communal instincts. As the playwright declared, «you only interact with people in competitive settings, whether it’s applying for a job or trying to get on the same train back home – you very rarely interact with people in shared and collective settings». The global trap of individualism and self-preservation closes down on all of us: on the one hand, refugees try to escape from death only to end up (if they survive) in the hot embrace of racial and social persecution, on the other, Europeans try to get by in a society extremely divided into crystallized castes, where the bugaboo of poverty turns us into pieces of this hate machine, weather we like it or not. Indeed, when capitalism is the only common ground, it’s not surprising that trust, care and share are the most uncommon actions of our days.
Ultimately, as pointed out in the second part of this breath-taking performance, what we need is an earthly human connection. The total lack of spiritual references highlights the director’s choice to focus on the earthly (not heavenly) impasse; that is, of the difficult condition of being us, always fighting between the alleged importance of our own private lives and the undeniable essentiality of a community. Us, covered in an itchy yet cosy blanket made of fear and mistrust, and them, wearing nothing but their hope and their sorrow. But Lampedusa is not a pessimistic play. As any good writer, Lustgarten describes the situation in its entirety, and to every action, there’s always a reaction.
And so, to a systemic disaster, we answer with individual kindness. We reach out, we listen, and we take that much needed leap of faith to believe in the apparently ever-so-scarce goodness of our neighbour. This microscopic approach to macroscopic events reverberates beautifully in the voice and gait of astounding actors Arghiris Xafis (Αργύρης Ξάφης) and Xara-Mata Giannatou (Χαρά-Μάτα Γιαννάτου), directed by the brave Vangelis Theodoropoulos (Βαγγέλης Θεοδωρόπουλος), who picked this play perhaps to point out to his fellow countrymen that the plight of the migrants is indeed the plight of a society drowning in its own indifference.
As Harold Pinter – another man who preferred the daily struggle of the poor to the bourgeois trivialities of the privileged – once said, «I think that life is beautiful but the world is hell», and as both Stefano and Denise find out that there’s humanity in the face of the other, so we look with renewed eyes to those who walk past us, wondering if they too suffer as we do.
The show was played at
Theatre of the Society for Macedonian Studies (ΕΜΣ) – National Theatre of Northern Greece
Ethnikis Amynis str. 2 – Thessaloniki
from 18 May 2016 to 21 May 2017
Thursday, Friday and Saturday 21.00, Sunday 19.00
The Θέατρο του Νέου Κόσμου (Theatre of the New World) presents
by Anders Lustgarten
translation Angeliki Kokkoni and Koralis Sotiriadou
direction Vangelis Theodoropoulos
set-customes Magdalini Avgherinou
music Stavros Gasparatos
lighting Sakis Birbilis
assistant director Dimitris Giannopoulos
cast Arghiris Xafis, Xara-Mata Giannatou