Violence brought to the stage

Harsh, violent plays are on the agenda for the New Theater of the Greek National Theater this season, inviting audiences into an intense and hardly painless understanding of the world and the human condition. Ranging from Shelagh Stephenson’s «Five Kinds of Silence,» which addresses domestic violence, to Albert Camus’s «Caligula» and a Shakespearian anthology lightly titled «Much Ado and Nothing,» the New Theater’s artistic director Dimitris Lignadis argues that the company is redefining words such as «research,» «experiment» and «exercise.» The season at the Hora Theater in Kypseli (where the New Theater company is currently housed) opened with «Milk,» a play by Greece’s Vassilis Katsikonouris that received rave reviews last year. With «Five Kinds of Silence» premiering last Friday, the performances of «Milk» have been restricted to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until January 4. «Our ambition is to live up to the name of our ensemble,» said Lignadis at a recent press conference, where he sat surrounded by a populous and especially young team of actors and crew. «We want to be a theater, a scene, and, in the broader sense of the name, innovative and youthful. If we didn’t succeed in reaching our goal last year, we can certainly get nearer to it,» he added. Lignadis also insisted on noting the commercial aspect of the experiment: «We achieved an artistic and financial success. And, yes, we do want to see people coming to our plays, otherwise we could just perform them in the bathroom at home.» «Five Kinds of Silence» scored critical success in the mid-1990s when the original BBC Radio series was adapted for the stage after having won a Writers’ Guild Award for Best Original Radio Play. Its success was due to its subject, argues the Athenian production’s director, Aspa Tompouli. «Despite the public awareness that has been raised in recent years, domestic abuse continues to be one of the most covered-up crimes of our time.» In the drama, Susan and Janet kill their sexually abusive father. Stephenson shed light on both worlds, that of the abuser and the abused, using, according to Tompouli, different means to understand both sides better. «Scenes of intense realism take place next to dense monologues that are extremely poetic,» she says. The play has been translated into Greek by Christina Babou-Pagoureli, the sets were designed by Maria Konomi, the costumes by Claire Bracewell, the music by Platonas Andritsakis and the lighting by Ilias Constantakopoulos. The play stars Giorgos Kentros, Kerasia Samara, Maria Zorba and Katia Gerou. A new director, Giorgos Sachinis, is behind Camus’s «Caligula,» which is due to premiere on January 30, 2007. «It is a play with many different levels and the challenge is to choose which level you want to focus on,» said the director. «In this production, the tough coming-of-age process of Camus’s hero takes place in the narrow hallway of a deserted swimming pool. The original play is transformed into the initiation ritual of five hydrophobic people, conducted by a sixth person who has been in water just once before,» explains Sachinis. The third production, «Much Ado and Nothing,» which will open in February, is a dance musical based on Shakespeare and other playwrights of his time. Lignadis, who is the production’s director, describes it as a «dancing restaurant» and promises many surprises. Hora Theater, 20 Amorgou, Kypseli, tel 210.867.3945.

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