Playing good guy not that easy

For more than six weeks, the Sfendoni Theater’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s «The Good Man of Szechuan» (starring the theater’s director Anna Kokkinou and directed by costume designer Angelos Mendis, who earlier served as art director of the «Clepsydra» parade at the Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony), has been exploring the concepts of good and evil. Each project the esteemed actress has ever embarked upon has represented a valuable addition to Greek theater; the memory of the long queues that formed for «Figures from the Work of Vizyinos» is still fresh. Now, Kokkinou has melded her talents with Mendis’s to present this allegory, «this fairy tale,» by Brecht, which will be on stage until May 21. She spoke with Kathimerini about the show. You have been struggling with this play since 2004. Did the effort and all the adventures that surrounded its staging affect the outcome? It really did take a very long time. It would certainly have been better if it hadn’t, but nevertheless I think it turned out well because we (just over half the theater company) bonded very well. One of the finest compliments we have been paid for this performance is that we appear very much as a team. Of course, Angelos takes a lot of credit for this. How did the collaboration with Angelos Mendis go, considering that it was his debut as a director? He is extremely talented, a person with that rare quality of having a very holistic view of what he does. And he works on a profound level. I was very impressed. The performance is beautifully structured and I would say that the way he has «read» the play and staged it is extremely innovative. We have worked together before, in 2003 for «Karaghiozis,» and his masks were exceptional. How about the others in the nine-member cast? These are great actors, young and with a good grasp of the problems of theater. They are tough cookies. I feel very fortunate and I hope to keep some of them. I have worked with Costas Laos before, but there are also a few new actors in the group for which acting has real meaning. Experience will come with time; it doesn’t count as much. Why did you choose Brecht? Does his work still resonate today? Brecht creates an X-ray, a map of society and of how man acts and functions within it today, how the various social groups function and interact. His incisive look is also wholly poetic. He observes one thing and at the same time sees it as part of a whole. Brecht brought poetry to the theater. So what is «good,» after all? Good is that which is alive, which has a will to live, a will to fight for good things. That is how Brecht defines good, and I agree with him. It is not something dry and frightening, but a motivating force that makes us want to discover things, to fight for change. Good is against every form of erosion. Are people good, bad or both? Of course we are both. Good is more powerful; at least I like to think so. But I agree with Brecht, who believes that man is formed by the existing social circumstances. Do you ever turn into your bad self, into Shui Ta, in real life? I let it influence me, because I need it sometimes. Doing this show, I came to realize some things for the first time. Phrases like «I should be good to others and to myself» trouble me. It’s impossible to achieve. I don’t know how it can be done. Can you tell us a few words about the good character, Shen Te? Shen Te gave me a harder time than Shui Ta, even though I was expecting it to be the other way round. Shen Te is not just a young woman. She is a very special creature and through her we see Brecht and his solid belief in goodness. I really love her. Anyway, don’t mothers behave the same way? Don’t they become a bitch for the sake of their children? Sfendoni Theater, 4 Makri, Makriyianni, tel 210.924.6692.