Tragedy, in the home of tragedies

This summer I went to Epidaurus (/ ˌ ɛ p ɪ ˈ d ɔː r ə s /; Ancient Greek: Ἐπίδαυρος Epidauros) was a small city in ancient Greece, on the Argolid Peninsula at the Saronic Gulf, because I always wanted to watch an greek tragedy in the ancient Greek open air theatre.

I picked the play Elektra because it is a classic and a true tragedy, set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan War, it recounts the tale of Electra and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.

The play was directed by a relatively new director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, who has found increasing attention, in a relatively short space of time, and in a very competitive genre.

I really loved the drive to Epidaurus, in the late afternoon, nearing sunset, travelling through the mountains with many other thousands, for the one purpose, to be at this venue and watch an ancient play. My expectations were close to none, as it would have been my first experience. I only assumed, Elektra would have been translated into a slightly more modern version, as many other cultural references and movements in Greece nowadays do.

I only realized the enormity of the crowds gathering there when I saw the size of the carpark and the queues when we got to the theatre gates. The ancient stone carved and built space welcomed us with a stage made in the same shape of its roundness, all in white with a round hole cut out on the white backdrop, linking the stage with the backdrop, by steep dramatic steps.

Epidavros

The tragedy begun and it was a disorienting and confusing experience. There were women covered in see through cloths, moving effortlessly like on-screen ghosts from the 70’s era. They reminded me of Catholicism and that became even more apparent as the play evolved. They were judgmental and backbones-less. The main character squeaked and screamed in unconnected personas making it even more uncomfortable. Yes she was going through a huge trauma however she did not need to be portrayed in such a misogynistic way. She was neither a woman, nor a devil. She was bitter and lost but the character portrayed was uncharacteristically poltergeisted for the pain and revenge she was planning. The whole lot of the other characters played out the same, they were either too weak or a copycat of Dracula like comicon characters that lacked dimension – this was a huge disappointment. The director could have played out the roles much more and did not think about their human element. It felt like he imposed his impression of the story on the actors. This left me with the impression the actors did not connect with the Director, and that is was pretty obvious he had made little effort to collaborate them even between them.

At the end of the tragedy, a bigger one happened. As the actors were bowing to their audience and receiving lots of thanks, the director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, went to the stage, dressed in an outfit resembling a German soldier outfit from the 2nd world war.

I did not find that funny or creative. I understood well his tendency to associate with the dark wave movement in Athens, after all I once was part of it too and remember al the boys getting excited with memorabilia, only to find themselves very isolated in the end. His choice was distasteful and inappropriate given we are at the verge of fascism all over Europe.

Thanos Papakonstantinou, failed on all fronts. It sounds like someone is pushing him to the front stage, however unqualified.  The Greek economy may be small, and opportunists like him can get attention and success, however Greece doesn’t deserve people like him mocking the situation (this is not a creative license, whatever he may come up to say) and fueling the division in our society further.

I wish to not see Thanos Papakonstantinou getting opportunities any day soon and for greek stages to host the original grassroots talent that exists but doesn’t try to buy in their way, through controversy. This is not USA, and there is no reason to be wearing an offensive outfit, not un-similar to Melania Trump’s ‘I don’t care’ outfit as she visited the children immigrant detention centres.

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Poverty, extremism and art. Where do we go from here?

Many days in the past two years I have woken up with the feeling we are living in parallel universes. Politicians continue to offend sensibility on a daily basis, polirising public opinion, whilst we stand aside watching on, the theatre of the insane. Our reality has become not too different from the Hunger Games, or many apocalypse-in-process themed movies.

Since Brexit, Trump being voted in, Putin and Erdogan, the troubles in Venezuela, Congo and Honduras to name a few, it is apparent that politicians aim to hold onto power, often to further their personal financial interests, on a wage funded by tax payer’s money.

Having gained power with dubious populist campaign sentiments, these politicians have also grabbed power with well versed catch-phrase marketing, tricking electorates with empty promises, whilst reducing their rights, and further pushing them into poverty.

However we have also seen the popularity and rise of progressive movements through the mist of this adversity. These have sown the seeds of change, pushing back on the dark principles of those autocrats. #metoo, #timesup, #FBPE and reports from non governmental organisations such us Doctors of the World, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness among other, have exposed witnesses in the political system, corruption, and promote accountability.

In London, knife crime amongst the young has escalated to uncontrollable levels, with police cuts, closure of youth services and social care, leading many with the inability to escape and furthermore to extremes and desperation.

Would any of the people affected be likely to join these movements or is their anger at a point where they are more likely to be pushed to extremes?

And how many times does this need to repeat to feel real in order of recognizing violence is not a resolution tactic, sometimes even when it is in defense.

Is activism and progressive thinking a middle-class will?

Artists and creatives around the world will surely emerge with an engaging and metaphorical message. That is the traffic light defining we live in intolerable political times.

Tracey Emin made her stand with the neon writing at St Pancras station. And that is all good willed and valuable. Many others follow.

However I can’t help but wonder how the most marginalised will gain a voice again. And who will care enough to listen, and for what reason.