CULTURE

Two plays, one mighty punch

The Nea Skini is repeating its superb production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed at Theatro Roes in Gazi (16 Iakhou St). Kane’s work, now acclaimed, originally met with the same opprobrium that greeted a London production of Ibsen’s Ghosts 100 years earlier – and expressed in virtually the same language. In 1891, the Telegraph denounced Ibsen’s play as unutterably offensive, and in 1998 the Daily Telegraph labeled Kane’s work the most vicious play of the decade. And Cleansed is definitely not for the faint of heart. An able cast led and directed by Lefteris Voyiatzis ushers the audience into a world of horror occasionally illumined by a redeeming ray of love. Scenes of physical brutality – savage beatings, rape, amputation and a syringe plunged into an eye – coupled with extreme psychological abuse – manipulation, humiliation and enforced betrayal – frequently verge on the unwatchable, yet none of them is gratuitous. There is nothing superfluous in this play, nothing out of place. Kane has choreographed the action as a series of sharp shocks, linked by a logical thread yet horrifyingly unpredictable. Short scenes build into a vision of the world that is bleaker than anything in Beckett. Brief flashes of humor, and a thwarted but recurring expression of the yearning for love leaven the mood. Yet when a bunch of bright yellow daffodils falls from the sky, their stems strike the ground with all the force of knives. A simple, ingenious set reinforces the atmosphere of foreboding and despair. Grubby walls surround a stark white platform that can be raised, lowered or set at a slant over a pit into which dust and water fall on mutilated bodies and souls that get stripped, crushed and betrayed. Shattering, poignant, and at times almost unbearable to watch, this production is not to be missed. A single gripe about an otherwise flawless performance concerns something it is probably too late to correct – the intrusive mispronunciation of the character Graham’s name. The cast was uniformly excellent: Voyiatzis (Tinker), Nikos Kouris (Graham), Thanos Samaras (Carl), Christos Loulis (Rod), Amalia Moutousi (Grace), Yiannos Perlegas (Robin) and Alexia Kaltsiki (the woman). Spellbinding Fassbinder Fassbinder wrote The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant in 1971, and his subsequent film of the play, starring Hanna Schygulla, has cast a shadow over all subsequent performances of the work. But Omada Theama’s production at Theatro Technohoros (161 Mavromichali St) stands firmly on its own feet. Marianna Kalbari as Petra leads a strong cast, with Katerina Lypiridou and Vassiliki Dimou playing the other women. The play is Fassbinder’s most erotic work, explains director Dimitris Athanitis, who also translated the text and designed the set. What attracts me about the play, explains Athanitis, is that beneath the glossy surface, which sometimes seems completely cold, there is feeling – an explosive, redemptive feeling. Petra von Kant, a fashion designer at the height of her profession, has become jaded and is vulnerable to the emotional storm sparked by a new love interest. While indulging her own passions, she has never learned to love. She is accustomed to dominating others, and her unexpected subjection to the young woman who uses and spurns her gives rise to bitter tears that lead to self-knowledge. A clever, multilevel set in Technohoros’s rather confined space facilitates the rapid tempo and quick costume changes, while allowing space for Petra’s grand, tempestuous scenes. Fashion is a keynote of the play and young Greek designer Vasso Consola was an inspired choice for the costumes. Adept at crafting garments to suit individual women, Consola blends fashion and theatricality in her costumes for demure Marlene, brattish Karin, slinky Sidonie and flamboyant Petra. A highly recommended production.