The Call of the Wild

Screams, insults, threats and clenched fists make the air of the Studio Theatre of the Lazaristes Monastery buzz with violence and, contextually, laughter, keeping half of the audience entertained with this comic symposium of death while the other half drowns in its seats, sinking amidst a plethora of contempt, loathing and memories of a not too distant past, where grandparents and grandmothers were the main characters in this disgusting game of masters and servants.

 

Greek Abstract

Οι κραυγές, οι προσβολές, οι απειλές και οι σφιγμένες γροθιές γεμίζουν τον αέρα του Μικρού Θεάτρου της Μονής Λαζαριστών με βία και, συγχρόνως, γέλιο, κρατώντας το μισό κοινό να διασκεδάζει με αυτό το κωμικό συμπόσιο θανάτου ενώ το άλλο μισό πνίγει στα καθίσματα του, βυθίζοντας μέσα σε μια αφθονία περιφρόνησης, οργής και μνήμες για ένα όχι πολύ μακρινό παρελθόν, όπου οι παππούδες και οι γιαγιάδες ήταν οι κύριοι χαρακτήρες σε αυτό το αηδιαστικό παιχνίδι αφεντάδων και υπηρετών.

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Italian Abstract

Urla, insulti, minacce e pugni chiusi fanno vibrare l’aria dello Studio Theatre del Monastero delle Lazzariste, riempiendola di violenza e, al tempo stesso, risate. Così, mentre metà del pubblico si gode questo comico simposio della morte, l’altra metà scivola nelle poltrone, annegando in troppo disprezzo, odio e ricordi di un passato non troppo lontano, dove i nonni e le nonne erano i personaggi principali di questo ripugnante gioco di padroni e servi.

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Throughout the 3,000-year history of humans using elephants, most elephants have been captured from the wild. A few may be first or second generation captive bred, but they are not bred selectively for the traits desirable by humans. The fact that humans have been using elephants for a long time does not make them domesticated. Elephants require brutal training to accept human contact, and even then, they retain their natural instincts, which are meant for the wild. The word ‘domesticated’ suggests elephants have lost their wild instincts and have adapted successfully for a life lived with humans. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In his bucolic and barbaric musical The Elephant, advertiser-turned-playwright Kostas Vostantzoglou draws a controversial parallel between animal domestication and human “house-training”, meant here as all the androcentric, misogynistic and patriarchal domination techniques developed and fine-tuned throughout the 3,000-year history of humans using other humans, bringing the audience within the ordinary walls of an ordinary household filled with ordinary people from the ordinary Greek countryside. Unique in its honesty, the play directed by Yannis Leontaris for the NTNG is a raw and vivid representation of that 99% of the population we still think of as a minority, deceiving and expiating ourselves at the same time.

Screams, insults, threats and clenched fists make the air of the Studio Theatre of the Lazaristes Monastery buzz with violence and, contextually, laughter, keeping half of the audience entertained with this comic symposium of death while the other half drowns in its seats, sinking amidst a plethora of contempt, loathing and memories of a not too distant past, where grandparents and grandmothers were the main characters in this disgusting game of masters and servants. «Who do we not give rights to? Women, Jews, gays and Commies!», proudly asserts the round-of-the-mill paterfamilias Mitsos (a flawlessly convincing Nikolas Maragkopoulos), while giving his hackneyed lesson on chauvinism, patriotism and male superiority to his half-witted underling Tasos, probably the most spot-on depiction of an average modern Greek citizen. At the same time, in the female territory of the house, where the tamed animal we call woman is allowed to lurk and wait for her next order, a larger-than-life Sofia Kalemkeridou brews, both metaphorically and literally, a storm of discontent and hatred, fomented by years of abuse, deceit and disregard.

Moreover, one of the most innovative feature of Vostantzoglou’s The Elephant, one which would make for quite the translational challenge, is the quality of the Greek language spoken by the characters of the play, «mainly formed by ignorance, lifestyle, an exaggerated admiration for an ancestor worship and the fascistic perception as an everyday family experience». Indeed, by placing the jargon in a fictional location in-between Thessaly, Roumeli and Epirus, the play extends its reach to most of the Greek continent, highlighting with its every line and chorus the deeply-rooted weeds of racism and phallogocentrism of the hoi polloi who, educated only with the stick, can only reproduce the very same violence they are the victim of, thus strengthening the vicious circle of dominant gender roles and submission.

 

The show is still playing
Small Theatre Moni Lazariston
Kolokotroni 25-27 – Thessaloniki
Wednesday at 18.00
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 21.15
Sunday at 20.00

the National Theatre of Northern Greece presents
The Elephant – Ο Έλεφας
by Kostas Vostantzoglou

director/music & video supervisor Yannis Leontaris
cast Sofia Kalemkeridou, Nikolas Maragkopoulos, Panagiotis Papaioannou and Marianna Pouregka
sets-costumes Alexandra Bousoulenga, Rania Yfantidou
lighting Nikos Vlasopoulos
assistant director Marilena Katranidou
production photography Tasos Thomoglou
production coordinator Dimosthenis Panos, Marily Ventouri
second assistant director (intern) Sofia Bletsou

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