A story is a story is a story
Grandiosely produced, newly translated and firstly staged for the Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2018, Euripides’ Orestes by NTNG’s Artistic Director Yannis Anastasakis reminds us that no matter how hard we try, within our own human means, the nape will always be a mystery for the eye, unless we agree to compromise, looking at other people’s napes, finding there what we were solipsistically searching in our own limited horizon.
Με μια μεγάλη παραγωγή, μια σύγχρονη μετάφραση και μια πρεμιέρα στο Φεστιβάλ Αθηνών-Επιδαύρου 2018, ο Ορέστης του Ευριπίδη σε σκηνοθεσία του Καλλητεχνικού Διευθυντή του ΚΘΒΕ, Γιάννη Αναστασάκη, μας υπενθυμίζει ότι ανξάρτητα από το πόσο σκληρά προσπαθούμε, περιορισμένοι από τα ανθρώπινά μας μέσα, ο αυχένας θα είναι πάντα ένα μυστήριο για το μάτι, εκτός εάν συμφωνούμε να συμβιβαστούμε, κοιτάζοντας τους αυχένες των άλλων, βρίσκοντας εκεί ό,τι ψάχναμε σολιψιστικά στον δικό μας περιορισμένο ορίζοντα.
Prodotto in pompa magna, tradotto a nuovo e messo in scena per la prima volta al Festival di Atene ed Epidauro 2018, l’Oreste di Euripide, per la regia del direttore artistico del Teatro Nazionale della Grecia Settentrionale, Yannis Anastasakis, ci ricorda che la nuca sarà sempre un mistero per l’occhio, a meno che non accettiamo di scendere a compromessi, guardando le nuche dei nostri prossimi e lì trovarvi ciò che solipsisticamente cercavamo all’interno dei nostri limitati orizzonti.
There are very few arguments that could be used in defence of NTNG’s Artistic Director take of Euripides’ Orestes, a performance that apparently «had the boldness to come to grips with an all-along “problematic” play», «setting it in a modern world, thus proving the timelessness of these writings», with a direction that «did not conceal even the slightest element, transferring with all the weight and the responsibility required to approach an Ancient text and represent it in our days, all of the roughness possessed by this Tragedy», as extolled by an enraptured throng of Greek critics.
In fact, Anastasakis’ first attempt at directing an ancient play seems to be hindered and smothered by exactly all of the above mentioned eulogies. First of all, staging a “problematic” play such as Orestes – described by American classicist William Arrowsmith as a «Tragedy utterly without affirmation, an image of heroic action seen as botched, disfigured, and sick, carried along by the machinery and slogans of heroic action in a steady crescendo of biting irony and rage of exposure. It is […] a kind of negative tragedy of total turbulence, deriving its real power from the exposure of the aching disparity between the ideal and the real, dooming all possibility of order and admitting dignity only as the agonizing absence by which the degree of depravity is to be judged» – should not be synonym per se of boldness. What is truly bold (and hence innovative, creative and ultimately necessary to keep the Theatre alive) is to eviscerate a play, as classic as it may be, scatter its bowels all over the stage and with them, create a new body made of ancient, timelessness organs; and not just an old body with new, modern clothes. And as Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, we have no doubt that Mr Anastasakis had the chance to see some of the best performances based on Ancient texts staged by his own theatre (i.e. Plutus and Electra).
Secondly, and most importantly, we believe it is time to get rid of the word “respect” from any artistic representation of a pre-existing text. Human beings, the storytellers of this planet, have been repeating the same stories for more than 20 centuries, living the same tragedies and crying for the same deaths. In lack of a truly urgent necessity, then, it is pointless to “respectfully” and “responsibly” re-enact an ancient drama exactly as it was, keeping every single element alive and kicking. It is like forcing a rotten corpse to dance: we would end up with a dead leg on our lap and a truly nasty smell in our nostrils. A respectful act, conversely, would be to understand the context in which every single narration was devised and, if similar to the current one, to try and weave again the weft of the arras, using the same threads, but in a different fashion. Stating that «through our performance, we will try to determine the citizen’s place in a tumultuous nation, but also the place of a nation that punishes itself by punishing its people. And if there is something that sets us apart from Orestes’ myth, it is that we all know that there is no Deus ex Machina», is not enough to tie past and present together. The past is like an old piece of furniture we have in our house. If we want to use it again, we cannot just paint over it, but we have to sand it down, check for woodworms and eventually replace the spoiled parts. This subtraction should not be seen as a loss of value, but as an act of mercy and remembrance that readies the furniture to the blows and clouts of future generations. If we do not recreate the past by questioning it and giving new meaning to it, it will suffice a wind of crisis to blow everything away, ironically destroying all that we were trying so hard to preserve in its pure, ancient form.
And talking about form, we cannot skip the new translation of Greek poet Yorgos Blanas whom, through this very same act of mercy and remembrance, dared and succeeded in “betraying” the original text, bringing in front of the audience a functional transposition of the ancient ars dicendi of Euripides, with a few modern twists here and there. Superfluous, on the other hand, is any reference to the content of Anastasakis’ Orestes, as little to no attention was paid to the gargantuan issues put forth by this sharp condemnation of Athenian society (what is conscience?, is there a difference between a righteous man and a pious man?, where does revenge ends and law starts?, can we survive in a world without compassion?, how can anyone change if he/she is alienated and abused in his/her own environment?), focused as he appeared to be on the depiction of the play, rather than its re-presentation.
«Orestes premiers in a world where our values are shaken and the need for survival brings to light our mortal nature», says the director’s note, and as mortals, we should remember that our only path to immortality is the creation of new visions, new blood, even at the price of questioning our own foundations.
The show was played at
Royal Theatre of Thessaloniki
Meg. Alexandrou avenue – Thessaloniki
13-16 September 2018
the National Theatre of Northern Greece presents
Orestes – Ορέστης
translation Yorgos Blanas
director Yannis Anastasakis
set-costume designer Yannis Thavoris
music Babis Papadopoulos
movement Alexis Tsiamoglou
lighting designer Lefteris Pavlopoulos
music instructor Nikos Voudouris
assistant director Samson Fytros
assistant set designer Elina Eftaxia
photographer Tasos Thomoglou
production coordinator Marleen Verschuuren
cast Ioanna Kolliopoulou, Dafni Lamprogianni, Nikolas Maragkopoulos, Dimitris Morfakidis, Dimosthenis Papadopoulos, Marianna Pouregka, Kostas Santas, Christos Stergioglou, Christodoulos Stylianou, Christos Stylianou
chorus Eleutheria Agkelitsa, Momo Vlachou, Stellina Vogiatzi, Anastasia Exintaveloni, Pavlina Zachra, Maria Konstanta, Christina Papatriantafillou, Maria Petevi, Elina Rizou, Evi Sarmi, Christina Christodoulou, Styliani Psaroudaki