Of Myths and Stereotypes
A fire that does not burn to its fullest potential, leaving our skin unblemished by its otherwise raging flames: this was the premiere of Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched through the eyes of Io Voulgaraki, a damp attempt at starting a blaze.
Μια φωτιά που δεν καίει στο μέγιστο δυναμικό της, αφήνοντας το δέρμα μας άθικτο από τις φλόγες μιας υπό άλλες συνθήκες πύρινης λαίλαπας: αυτή ήταν η πρεμιέρα του Πυρκαγιές του Ουαζντί Μουαουάντ μέσα από τα μάτια της Ιούς Βουλγαράκη, μια νωπή προσπάθεια να ξεκινήσει μια πυρκαγιά.
Un fuoco che non brucia del tutto, lasciando la pelle intatta da un incendio altrimenti divampante: questa la prima di Incendi di Wajdi Mouawad visto con gli occhi di Io Voulgaraki, un umido tentativo di infuocare la platea.
To Plato «all good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed», and the traumatic experience of war and exile possesses the play of Wajdi Mouawad, Scorched. Indeed, his own recollections of the past combine the Lebanese Canadian playwright’s memories of the war with the dark fantasies of his nightmares and the imagined memory, giving birth to a fictionally historical representation of the bloody civil war that reddened the soil of a sectarian Lebanon from 1975 to 1990, leaving behind more than 120,000 fatalities and 900,000 emigrants.
Loosely based on the life and tribulations of Lebanese communist militant Souha Bechara, Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad, the second play in his tetralogy Le Sand des Promesees, tells the story of multiple journeys of self-discovery taken by characters seeking to better understand their own history and present identity as it exists within a complex and continually shifting socio-political web. The play is set in motion by the death of Nawal Marwan and the reading of her will. Her twin children, Simon and Jeanne must each deliver a separate letter to a father and a brother they never knew existed in a pilgrimage which takes them back to their mother’s native land and, ultimately, to the re-establishment of their own identity in the face of loss.
«The play refuses realism, trying to say that finally time does not really exist», purports Greek director Io Voulgaraki, as she struggles and eventually fails with the re-representation of the majestically-orchestrated, jaw-dropping temporal flurry of simultaneity and eternal recurrence of the original. Indeed, as we assist to the present unfolding of events, we are taken back and forth into non-existing, fictional worlds and époques, in perfect harmony with postcolonial narrative and its relentless dismantling and rebuilding of self: the splitting of time and space, the use of dead, imagines and archetypal characters, a splitting of the subject position, a return to the feminine narrative and a deconstruction of language – all techniques used by both directors to annihilate colonised realism, but with diametrically opposed results.
As a matter of fact, what makes this Greek version of a theatre’s modern classic a sour and maimed shadow of its original – beside the quasi-amateurish interpretation of its main characters (with the exception of the avuncular notary played by Giorgos Κafkas and the sui generis nurse Κonstantinos Chatzisavvas) and the bromidic, forgettable and at times maladroit stage directions – is the attempt to mythologize migrants’ exilic experience by focusing on a larger-than-life approach that inspires dread, fear, horror and pity and leads to a catharsis that never comes. Notwithstanding the anticlimactic actorial delivery, what fails to move us is the guilt-ridden slant embraced by Voulgaraki who, willingly or not, decides to ignore the Freudian trauerbeit that sustains the whole structure of the play; that process within which Mouawad bears witness to the national tragedy of Lebanon, works through the trauma it caused and offers hope to the survivors by re-enacting violence, memorializing victims and performing mourning work in order to renew our shattered faith in humanity, overcoming our continuing struggle with guilt.
Theatre is an art of the social, grounded in the realities of the artists who collaborate to create it and the audience members who share in its performance. If no attempt is made to respect the emotional and artistic intelligence of the audience, the social collaboration fails and after 150 minutes of void utterances, nothing is shared, nothing is brought home.
The show is still playing
Royal Theatre of Thessaloniki
30is Oktovriou 2 – Thessaloniki
from 02 February to 21 April 2019
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 20.30
the National Theatre of Northern Greece presents
Scorched (Incendies) – Πυρκαγιές
by Wajdi Mouawad
translation Efi Giannopoulou
direction Io Voulgaraki
cast Markos Gettos, Danai Epithymiadi, Εleni Thymiopoulou, Nikos Kapelios, Giorgos Κafkas, Dimitris Kotzias, Αndreas Κoutsourelis, Εfstathia Lagiokapa, Ntina Μichailidou, Grigoris Papadopoulos, Kostas Santas Evi Sarmi, Dimitris Siakaras, Christos Stylianou, Orestis Chalkias, Κonstantinos Chatzisavvas
sets Anna Fedorova
costumes Maria Mylona
music Giorgos Christianakis
movement Alexandra Kazazou
lighting Alekos Anastasiou
music instruction Nikos Voudouris
video art Marios Gampierakis, Chrysoula Korovesi
assistant director Efi Christodoulopoulou
second assistant director Sofia Lacombe
assistant set-costume designer Dimitra Giovani
special construction-sculpture Anastasios Kelemidis
production photography Tasos Thomoglou
production coordinator Athanasia Androni