Anna Kokkinou’s Beckett tribute

“Don’t miss Kokkinou» is all you hear lately: Anna Kokkinou, that is, who is currently staging Samuel Beckett’s «Happy Days» at the Sfendoni Theater in Makryianni. That’s where Kokkinou interprets Winnie – possibly Beckett’s most famous heroine. Though most of her body is buried under a small hill, Winnie spends her time chatting about insignificant things happening in the rest of the world. The Sfendoni Theater is exclusively dedicated to Beckett this year – earlier in the season Kokkinou organized a tribute, featuring nearly all of Beckett’s short plays. «A lot of people came to the theater,» says Kokkinou, «including new collaborators; that was really good for me, given that I had been a little bit isolated…» What led you to this full-scale approach of Beckett? I have always been attracted to him and I was waiting for the right moment to deal with this playwright more. A few years ago I came across his short plays, translated by Nasos Detzortzis – a sensational translation. I was speechless, and my feelings intensified after reading the works in English. The short texts resemble the olive tree, small, but full of substance, a concentration of Beckett’s universe and style. You took your time before tackling this. Yes, but now it is being done properly, through this combination of a tribute and a play. Three years ago I had staged the «Lullaby,» during a Beckett-Cocteau-Dickinson triptych. «Lullaby» was repeated this season, during the tribute, and now I’m staging «Happy Days,» a play which I always found very interesting. Why is that? The play is very close to modern man, the latter recognizing many elements of his life. There’s the issue of time, for instance, how we deal with time. What we do all day long, how we spend our time. That’s what Winnie is concerned with – how she will spend her day. That’s when you realize that one single day can be an entire life… All the things she does, her obsession with inventing things so that she doesn’t realize time going by; so that there is not a single, idle moment, when she is not doing or saying something; don’t we recognize this? The play dates back to the 1960s. Does it take on a new dimension today? It concerns us more today – and concerns more of us. The issues Beckett dealt with don’t belong to a particular period in time, they have to do with an entire era. What we see is that as time goes by, it becomes more and more clear how much his works have to do with us. Personally, I believe that Beckett belongs in the future. Do you mean that his works are about the «Western lifestyle» which is so widespread today, and has reached a crescendo… Yes, and that’s why it’s easier to understand the meaning of the play today. It reminds me of Balzac, and the short story about the train crossing Europe for the first time, which foresaw what would happen in modern times. What led you to co-direct the play together with Mirka Gementzaki? Like all Beckett plays, it flows like a musical score. Besides being able to read texts like musical scores, Mirka also understands the actors’ physiology. We haven’t actually «directed» the play, since this play was directed by its creator. I didn’t feel the need to come up with something else. Sfendoni Theater, 4 Makri, tel 210.924.6692.

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