Modern take on ancient play

One of Karolos Koun’s first, legendary theater productions at the Theatro Technis (Art Theater) was Jean Anouilh’s «Antigone,» staged in 1947 with the young Elli Lambeti in the lead. This year, the Theatro Technis decided to produce the same play once more, at its stage in Plaka. Directed by Thodoros Grampsas, it features not only experienced actors (Grampsas himself plays Creon), but also young ones, some students of the Theatro Technis drama school who are, more or less, of the same age as the characters. In a recent interview, Grampsas proved unfazed by the 1947 production of «Antigone,» one of the theater’s very first performances. It did not restrict him in any way, he said. «This is a timeless play, which allows one to see it through different eyes, through one’s own times.» Why choose Anouilh’s «Antigone» over the Greek «original» Antigone? «I was fascinated by the fact that the ancient myth and all its characters appear, in Anouilh’s text, to be living in our own times and discussing contemporary issues. For example, we hear that Polynices drives around like a madman and drinks away at bars,» said Grampsas. «I was charmed to see characters that I knew rendered in modern times.» The director admits to having given little thought initially to the differences between Sophocles’ Antigone and Anouilh’s. «I approached the play as I would approach any other contemporary play,» he said. «But I can point out one difference. In Anouilh’s play, Creon almost convinces Antigone that it is pointless to sacrifice herself for her brothers, both of whom he considers bums. He tells her that they don’t even know which body belongs to which brother, because the cavalry that rode over them has totally mutilated them. Yet Antigone is provoked by something Creon says about life and happiness and becomes enraged, being young, sensitive and rebelious, like all young people of her age. She says: ‘So in order to be happy I must be like you; tell lies, be hypocritical and kill people? Anouilh’s character does not accept the way the world and society are built around her, which is equivalent to a denial of life. Antigone, pure as she is, cannot exist in such a world. So she heads for destruction. Creon is more human and negotiable, he isn’t the rigid tyrant. Like the ancient Creon, he tries to apply the law, but he knows that the law has no moral backing. Yet one must somehow rule…» In his modern take, Grampsas places the center of the action in a cafe-bar «where one can go and read the paper or chat with a friend. Someone sitting at the bar is reading Anouilh’s play and suddenly everyone around him turns into the play’s characters. The sets (by Irini Sarimoutsou), the costumes (by Katerina Papanikolaou), the modern music with jazz touches (by Seraphim Tsotsonis), the lights (by Melina Mascha) and the movement (by Liza Bassova) all follow the same lines. I’m very happy with everyone’s work, including the actors, and I’m very moved with the young actors, who made their professional debut on stage.» These include Evgenia Zekeri as Antigone, Lefteris Vassilakis as Haemon and Nassia Kyriakou as Ismene. The play also stars Katerina Ziogou, Dimitris Degaitis, Costas Velentzas, Yiannis Sideras, Effi Konta and Panayiotis Soulis. Theatro Technis Karolos Koun, 14 Frynichou, Plaka, tel 210.322.2464.