Odd historical event inspires Greek director

Who could have imagined that Antonin Artaud, the French playwright who suffered for his beliefs about art in the early 20th century, would ever have been connected to Hitler? A brief encounter between the two in a Berlin art-house cafe, however, has inspired a play that is currently on stage at the Thiseion Theater (7 Tournavitou, Psyrri, tel 210.325.5444) in central Athens. «In the Dump with Artaud and Hitler» is the brainchild of Iakovos Drossos, a theater music director recently turned stage director. While a student at the University of Sorbonne, Drossos was moved by the story of Artaud’s tortured life and, he admits, he has since harbored an interest in doing something about the playwright. «The idea came to me through a mysterious meeting the two had in the Romanische Cafe in Berlin in 1932, the same year Artaud played in Pabst’s film of ‘The Threepenny Opera.’ A long time ago, I had read a brief reference to this encounter in Artaud’s notes from the mental institution where he was committed. It was just three or four lines, unfinished and vague. Nobody knew anything more about it. Only one friend of his had testified that when Hitler invaded France, Artaud told her the reason was to liberate him from the mental institution. It seemed that he believed Hitler had the power to impose different principles onto the arts, because that was what Artaud thought the problem was – the state of the theater,» explained Drossos. The director recently had his hands on a German play about the meeting between the two men and this formed his starting point. The play he is staging at the Thiseion Theater is not based on this monologue, but contains very brief lines from it, blended with extracts of Artaud’s work, Hitler’s speeches and poems by Baudelaire and Nerval. Two actors – Orpheas Zafeiropoulos and Dora Stylianesi – do not perform two roles but, rather, the two sides of Artaud’s character.