CULTURE

An actress of a thousand faces

Acclaimed actress Themis Bazaka has always had an uncanny ability to transform her persona. Even in her early days on the big screen in the 1980s, she proved herself over and over again as an actress of the highest caliber, a talent she has carried onto the stage since the early 1990s. Now, Bazaka is undergoing yet another transformation in the poetic monologue «Clytemnestra’s Tears» by Avra Sidiropoulou, currently on stage at the Dipylon Theater. Just when her Greek fans had become accustomed to her blonde hair in Panos Koutras’s latest film, the Greek/French co-production «Real Life,» Bazaka now plays what she describes as an «asexual, ageless» character. «The structure of the play is such,» she explains, «that it leads us to metaphysical and existential levels of understanding.» The age-old legend of the House of Atreus may well be present in the play, but, Bazaka assures us, in this play, Clytemnestra is not trying to justify the murder of her husband, nor is she trying to find justice. «My Clytemnestra suffers. She doesn’t ask for help, she just wants to be rid of her torturous thoughts. She sees that she cannot escape her destiny and comes to view death as the only liberation.» Bazaka wanted to cut her hair completely, so she «could get rid of any feminine traces,» but her obligations forbade her to take such drastic action: She is due to start filming Yianna Amerikanou’s «Helen’s Olives» – a story based on the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus – in a few days, while in the summer she is booked for a miniseries on Mega Channel by Tassos Psaras. She tried wearing a wig, but that only brought on a skin reaction, and so had to revert to a silicon head cover that makes her head appear transparent, «as if the heroine’s thoughts are transparent.» Her costume (designed by Ioanna Tsami) is a turquoise tunic that ends in a lizard tail-like trail. The set (by Eva Manidaki) of running water and moss makes her seem like a reptile in a cave. «The necklace I wear represents Clytemnestra’s tears turned into diamonds; the tears she shed when she lost her child.» The text is poetic and structured to appear like the heroine’s rambling thoughts. «It is the character’s thoughts in a fragmented form, presenting 10 years of her life without any sense of sequence. It spans the time when Agamemnon killed Iphigenia to his return, when Clytemnestra murders him. It focuses on her unbearable loneliness and her desperate love for him.» Bazaka succeeds in gripping the audience for the entire 45-minute duration of the play. «It just won’t work if I don’t put myself in a type of trance,» she says. She witnessed the reaction of the audience on the first day of the show, as they stopped short when they saw her on stage. «It takes an enormous amount of concentration to tame their initial discomfort,» admits the actress. «You have to placate them first so they can get into the play. I could sense them holding their breath as the play unfolded.» After the Dipylon, the play will travel to Istanbul’s Tiyatro Oyueni Theater, where it will be presented in Greek by Bazaka, in Turkish by Derya Durmaz and in English by Kristin Linklater. Dipylon Theater, Second Stage, Kalogirou Samouil & Dipylou, Psyrri, tel 210.322.9771. Call ahead to check performance times.