Making Greece more European

With his latest work «Napoleonetta,» playwright Andreas Staikos goes back to the beginnings of the modern Greek state. Staikos’s older play «1843,» which was staged some time ago, was also set at the same time. «Napoleonetta,» which Staikos has also directed, opened last week at the Proskinio Theater. «Napoleonetta is the name of a girl,» explained Staikos. «Her father, a doctor from Fanari who lived in Trieste before the 1821 outbreak of the war for liberation, gave his daughter that name out of admiration for Napoleon, whom he looked upon as the promoter of the ideas of Enlightenment to the rest of Europe.» The play is set in 1835 Nafplion, at the moment that Otto comes of age and becomes the king of Greece. «The main thing, which is of allegorical importance as well, is that back then the administration hired dozens of dance teachers, Viennese and Bavarians, to teach locals to dance the waltz. Those in power deemed that necessary so that the king could listen to familiar melodies and see familiar things in every area he visited. It was so that he felt at home and not like a stranger. I don’t know if this is historically accurate, but I read about it somewhere and found it ideal for the theater. I used it because it can give an indication of the more generalized effort to make Greece European, which was starting at that time.» The Greek doctor, played by Peris Michailidis, is a staunch patriot who feels guilty about not having fought in the war. After the declaration of independence, he moves with his family to Nafplion and curries favor from those in power. He takes under his wing a humble fighter, played by Manos Vakoussis, who has it tough; he has just been beaten up badly by the guards who accompany the dance teachers and take care of all those who prove unable to learn the waltz. The doctor takes him in as a gardener and tries to write down his war memoirs. Not understanding the simple way and language the former fighter uses in his narration, the doctor uses his own imagination and turns him into a hero. «So the fighter starts to gradually change, living with this middle-class family,» said Staikos. «He only keeps the fustanella out of his traditional outfit and combines it with a jacket on top. Besides, all the ladies of the house (the doctor’s wife, played by Antonia Yiannouli, her daughter Napoleonetta, played by Katerina Pavlaki and the maid, performed by Elena Hadziafxendi) are adverse to local dress. They are taken with the foreigners, the waltz and the bright costumes of the Bavarian officers, in particular a dance teacher with whom they flirt and who has a key role in the plot, although we never actually see him on stage.» «It is an allegory of the country’s political dependence and all forms of corruption. It reflects the birth of the middle class in Greece. It is a comedy with bitter elements, concerning our country’s progress forward but also the present and even the future.» It is not the first time that Staikos has been inspired by the past to write a play. «The past offers lots of possibilities theatrically, but also interests me from the linguistic point of view. It brings to me another language which, combined with today’s language, creates a third, an invented language that is very personal and very useful in the theater game.» The mise-en-scene is very simple, so as not to affect the play’s focus on language, according to Staikos. «Even the way the actors pronounce the very last word is very important and we worked on that very much.» Shows will run to May 20, except on Mondays.