We are at war. Apparently with everyone, but mostly with ourselves. The Self is under siege, and we are on both sides of the walls, clawing at our own throats to destroy that dreadful Otherness which undermines our beautiful values, which we once called Gods. And as Aeschylus suggests in Seven Against Thebes, only the death of these two arbitrary categories will keep us together.
Siamo in guerra. Pare con tutti, ma principalmente con noi stessi. L’Io è sotto assedio, e ci troviamo da entrambi i lati delle mura, pronti a ghermire le nostre stesse gole per obliterare quel tremendo Altro che mina i nostri brillanti valori, quelli che un tempo chiamavamo Dei. Come consiglia Eschilo ne I sette contro Tebe, però, sarà solo la morte di queste due categorie arbitrarie a tenerci uniti.
Βρισκόμαστε σε πόλεμο. Φαινομενικά, με όλους, αλλά κυρίως με τον εαυτό μας. Με το “Eγώ” μας σε πολιορκία, βρισκόμαστε εγκλωβισμένοι ανάμεσα στα τοίχοι, έτοιμοι να γραπωθούμε από τους ίδιους μας τους λαιμούς ώστε να απαλειψούμε εκείνο το φοβερό “Άλλο” που απειλεί τις λαμπερές μας αξίες, αυτές που κάποτε ήταν γνωστές ως Θεοί. Όπως συμβουλεύει, ωστόσο, ο Αισχύλος στο Επτά επί Θήβας, μόνο η εξάλειψη αυτών των δύο αυθαίρετων κατηγοριών θα μας κρατήσει ενωμένους.
The 4th century BC theatre of Epidaurus is far from being a minimalist place, and yet, among the long gone pomp of the past, against a lush landscape of trees and peppy cicadas, a very concise and slim performance takes place. Indeed, Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes loses its classic rouge for a blunter, more sincere and alas “modern” interpretation. The text and its canons are respected, but the chorus and the main characters get mixed together from the very beginning, thus representing more closely and perhaps more truthfully the calm before the storm. Interestingly enough, the action is never shown, if not for a few brief climaxing moments, and only the soul is bared to the audience. Eteocles readies the defence of his city from the army of his brother, Polyneices, rabble-rousing his subjects to defend what is theirs with their own two hands wrapped around a sword, and not joined together toward the skies. The reaction to Stankoglou’s pathos is mostly pallid, with just a few moving interpretations (Clio-Danae Othoneou as Antigone, for example) that manage to raise the level of this summer-theatre’s spearhead seemingly sprawled on its own laurels. Lucky for us, Aeschylus’ storytelling keeps itself afloat through sheer word power, and the play dully flows out into an ocean of mediocrity.
However, albeit insipid, a king’s word is still an order, and the citizens answer with fear to their call of duty, but just like Don Quixote, who chose to believe that what he read in his chivalric romances was true and worth dying for, they too accept to sacrifice their lives with courage for a man they believe to be their real ruler, despite being the actual cause of their siege. Indeed, Eteocles promised to share the throne with his brother Polyneices, but failed to do so after the year of reign they had both agreed upon expired, thus rekindling the curse of their well-know father, Oedipus, who had tried to escape the fate of his blood, but to no avail. What is most striking in Cezaris Graužinis’ take on Aeschylus’ most tattered text, and truly enthralling, is both the suspension of criticism on Eteocles’ selfishness and the super-human focus on his reasons: could it be that the King did not keep his end of the bargain because, quite brilliantly, he had already seen that the only way to get rid of his atavistic «sea of troubles» was to «take arms […] and by opposing end them»?
Getting rid of the arbitrary, archaic and irrational element that so thoroughly vexes his cursed race (that is, ancestry) is a revolutionary gesture performed by Eteocles, who chooses to give up his own life and title and to risk that of the city too so that the people of Thebes could earn their own logical, and moral freedom. Analogously, the director takes up the honour and the burden of such a classic just to tear it apart and show us what’s actually beating inside this ancient political monster we call a city. Turning Aeschylus’ tragedy into a tragicomedy is not just an easy answer to the thorny questions posed by the urge to modernise a play, it’s a declaration of intents: we need tragedies to remain united, to remain human, to get out of our comfortable domestic shells and face the army that is besieging our identity and our convictions (all the while being conquered is not always so bad). But we also need to laugh at our own mortality if we want to trespass it and let our own deeds be a lesson to all those who come after us.
«The team of creators of Seven Against Thebes are taking a challenge at exploring how the instinct of our common survival is going along with our need to remain human… which we have inherited from our ancestors and which we are obliged to pass to our children against fear, against insecurity, against desperation», declares the Lithuanian director, thus pointing his compass toward what comes next. The future, in Aeschylus’ work, is not only in the hands of the Gods, but also of men. It is through actions that we determine the words that will come after us, and whether they will extol us or curse us, bury us or leave us at the vultures’ mercy. Sitting on these ancient stony bleachers, surrounded by a conspectus of all that is Greek, the future looks just like gravity, everyone is slowly drifting toward everyone else. We are all going to be part of each other one day, merged in this super-human entity we call city. All we need to do, is let the kings die.
The show was played at
Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
Epidavrou Tripolis, Epidavros – Greece
30 June and 1 July 2017
Friday and Saturday, 21.00
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017 presents
Seven Against Thebes
translation Yorgos Blanas
director Cezaris Graužinis
sets and costumes Kenny MacLellan
music Dimitris Theoharis
choreography-movement Edi Lame
lighting Alekos Giannaros
music instruction Panagiotis Barlas
assistant director Athina Samartzidou
assistant sets and costumes designer Maria Mylona
production co-ordinator Filothei Eleftheriadou
cast Yannis Stankoglou (Eteocles), Clio-Danae Othoneou (Antigone), Iovi Fragatou (Ismene), Giorgos Kafkas (Messenger), Alexandros Tsakiris (Herald), Giorgos Papandreou (Polynices)
chorus Loukia Vasileiou, Momo Vlachou, Dimitris Drosos, Eleni Thymiopoulou, Dafni Kiourktsoglou, Christos Mastrogiannidis, Vasilis Papageorgiou, Stavrianna Papadaki, Grigoris Papadopoulos, Alexia Sapranidou, Polyxeni Spyropoulos, Giorgos Sfyridis, Evanthia Sofronidou, Konstantinos Hatzisavvas