CULTURE

A man of many theatrical roles

Local actor Constantinos Markoulakis has entered new fields, or more precisely, headed in a completely different direction. The gifted actor’s work span now also takes in the roles of theatrical artistic director, stage director, and producer. Markoulakis and a similar-minded colleague, Giorgos Lykiardopoulos, recently took over the Hora Theater in Kypseli, downtown Athens, which has been refurbished and redesigned. Now featuring three stages, the intention is to also present work by young artists. The venue’s main stage is currently hosting «Don Juan in Soho» by Patrick Marber, the playwright who delivered «Closer,» a hit at London’s National Theater in the mid-1990s. Marber’s «Don Juan in Soho,» inspired by Moliere’s 1665 play, relocates the action to the present. Markoulakis, who stars in the Hora Theater’s production, is also busy with demanding roles in TV serials, including «Junkerman,» based on the novel by the celebrated Greek writer Michalis Karagatsis. It’s all a big load. And there’s a 2-year-old child to attend to as well. Did you plan on a wider range of responsibilities in theater? It happened by chance, literally. The National Theater abandoned its venue at the Hora Theater and Petros Zoulias, who owns it, recommended to me that I take over. We discussed it with Giorgos [Lykiardopoulos]… and made the decision. The intention was to offer something with wider scope, a venue that could also host other productions – not just me, or merely one of our productions. Also, the plan was to offer a meeting place for a variety of things, such as educational programs for young theatergoers interested in enriching their experience, and to implement systems that would make the theater accessible to persons with special needs… How about your decision to direct? It’s something that really suits my nature. I am good at communicating, I can approach people, and that’s a very good quality to have when working with actors. Of course, for a variety of reasons, I would have preferred entering this field later on. There’s also the issue of people thinking, «He’s doing it all by himself now.» But I’m accustomed to being looked at strangely, so it doesn’t matter… What are your first impressions of the experience? I felt good about my work again. And that made the cast far more responsive. Despite the numerous problems I was confronting all at once at rehearsals, I felt a youthful enthusiasm again. In other words, I go to the theater feeling good about it on a daily basis. Even though you’re also doing TV at the same time. They’re conflicting things, but that’s a joy for me. [The TV work] is high standard, an oasis amid all that’s on TV. I really want «Junkerman» and «10» [both are based on Karagatsis novels] to do well so that the TV people don’t draw the conclusion that such projects don’t work… [Junkerman] is tender, sweet, as well as a vagabond, a leader, a bad guy, an abysmal character – everything. Are you like him at all? To a certain degree, yes. Yes… And are you anything like Don Juan, whom you’re currently appearing as at the theater? Some sides of him. I, too, have a natural unbridled curiosity for everything. And I’m not satisfied by stereotype conclusions. I feel challenged when faced by commonly accepted truth. This character is the archetype of a multidimensional figure. The insatiable sexual drive with which he has been identified is just part of his evaluation of life. He views life as a never-ending question. He challenges human and religious norms. In today’s world – where his sexual activity not only is not condemned, as was the case in Moliere’s era, but also condoned – it becomes more obvious that this archetypal figure is digging away at foundations. Don Juan remains just as dangerous today. What did Marber retain from Moliere’s work? The work’s plot and structure. The main thing he did was to relocate the play to the modern era by adjusting situations and people in an extremely intelligent way and with inspired comparisons, especially Don Juan’s interaction with his servant Sganarelle. Because I think it is wrong to see two separate faces here. These are the two sides of the same person. And I am lucky that the role of Sganarelle is played by Constantinos Papachronis. Does Marber intend to alter or stretch Moliere? How much further can you go than Moliere? It’s a very interesting contemporary play, open to various interpretations, as was exactly the case with Moliere’s original. Marber tampered with the last scene, the depiction of hell, and rightly so, because Moliere was forced by his era’s conditions to leave his liberal-minded main character’s divine punishment for the very end. Marber changed that in an exceptionally ingenious way, which I’ve tried to expand on as a director. In other words, at the end the main character is left alone on stage and the other cast members, jovial and laughing, abandon him for the theater’s stall. And he is left alone. It’s the only form of hell I can think of for a person who followed a dangerous way of life – a destitute soul, the inability to become attached to anything…