Remembrance of Things Past

Yet another company from Athens comes knocking at Thessaloniki’s doors, again with a classical text from 20th century literature. Virginia Woolf’s Orlando takes the Small Theatre Moni Lazariston by storm with Amalia Kavali’s breathless show of histrionic prowess that echoes in a vaudeville-like direction which leaves no space for a second opinion.

 

Spoiler

Un’altra compagnia ateniese bussa alle porte di Salonicco, ancora una volta con un testo classico della letteratura del 20° secolo. L’Orlando di Virginia Woolf prende d’assalto il Mikro Theatro Moni Lazariston grazie alla prova di forza di Amalia Kavali che riecheggia senza mai prender fiato in una regia da gran varietà che non lascia spazio a seconde opinioni.

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Spoiler

Ακόμη μια άλλη ομάδα από την Αθήνα χτυπά στις πόρτες της Θεσσαλονίκης, και πάλι με ένα κλασικό κείμενο από τη λογοτεχνία του 20ού αιώνα. Ο Ορλάνδο της Virginia Woolf κατακτεί τα πλήθη του Μικρού Θεάτρου Μονής Λαζαριστόν με την συναρπαστική επίδειξη μελοδραματικής μαεστρίας της Αμαλίας Καβάνι που αντηχεί σε μια σκηνοθεσία που μοιάζει με βαριετέ και δεν αφήνει χώρο για μια δεύτερη γνώμη.

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Published in 1928 in the wake of a tumultuous relationship with poet, writer, friend and lover Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando caused quite the fuss in the extremely prude and censorship-penchant society of the time, especially considering that it represented not only an openly same-sex love letter, but also a personal retaliation to the trial for obscenity issued against Radclyff Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, another seminal novel for the lesbian community.

Thus politically charged, Woolf’s novel represented, and still represents, one of the most complex texts on the subject due to its endless series of veiled assertions and brazen taunts addressed both to the reader and the censor. As Cornell College’s Leslie Kathleen Hankins says in the work Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings, «throughout the novel, Woolf brings feminism squarely into the queer realm by confronting the sexually ambiguous protagonist with his/her own complicity in the misogynist sex/gender system and by encouraging a feminist conversion experience. […] By tying lesbian erotics to feminist politics, Woolf seduces non-feminist lesbianism. We may reclaim Orlando as the longest and most charming lesbian feminist love letter in literature, recognizing its narrative strategies as specific responses to the heterosexist censorship and non-feminist gay and lesbian cultures of Woolf’s day».

All the frills and shills of her male character, then, are not only a faithful representation of the coquetry and boisterous affectations of the century in which he happened to spend his early years of adolescence, but a sharp dagger aimed at the heart of the extremely flamboyant and swashbuckling hypocrisies of English society. The week-long sleep that will change forever the life of the young squire marks the turning point of the book. Orlando experiences the cold plunge in the darkness and silence of dusk that is women’s lives in a patriarchal society and resolves to pursue freedom and self-realization, becoming the human being he/she never was not for lack of want, but for lack of need.

In this context of gendered signifier-signified, Io Voulgaraki’s interpretation of the novel seems to be concerned firstly and foremostly with the frivolous and lowbrow nature of this androgynous anti-hero, an interest that drags on for most part of the play, leading her main and only actress to repeat the same idiosyncrasies regardless of the character’s development so majestically portrayed in the novel. We are thus presented with an extremely skilled Amalia Kavali who relentlessly recounts a tale of little to no importance if broken up from its original objective. Furthermore, the introduction of Shakespeare’s Sonnet no. 30 at the beginning and end of the play (in English), other than suggesting the circular and trans-gender nature of death and suffering, seems to serve yet again only a palliative aesthetic purpose, largely catered for by the surprising customs and the “evocative” set design.

Coming from the same young director that had the courage and audacity to stage 10 silent people for more than one hour and a half (Intolerance – Μισαλλοδοξία, 2016) to bring to theatre David Wark Griffith’s film of the same name, Orlando’s production seems inexplicably under-developed and unambitious, not to mention extremely simple and predictable, filling the air with applauses and a persistent aftertaste of things left undone.

The show was played at
Small Theatre Moni Lazariston
Kolokotroni 25-27, Stavroupoli – Thessaloniki
from 28 September to 1 October 2017
21.00

Skrow theatre presents
Orlando
by Virginia Woolf
translated by Alexandros Issaris
adapted and directed by Io Voulgaraki
set-costumes Magdalini Avgerinou
lighting Karol Jarek
cast Amalia Kavali

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