An actor makes his debut as a director

Babis Hatzidakis is seated opposite me drinking coffee and chain-smoking. We are immersed in a discussion on the new performance in which he is both a director and actor. It is Giles Havergal’s theatrical adaptation of Graham Greene’s «Travels with My Aunt» and is currently on stage at the Theatro tou Iliou in Plaka. Hatzidakis tells me the story of the play over our coffee, occasionally delivering some lines from the script. This is the first time Hatzidakis has directed a play and he is enthusiastic. Part of his enthusiasm stems from the fact that in this production he is working with some of his favorite artists («They drew each other in,» he told me). Hatzidakis says that all stages of the production flowed easily, so that everything happened naturally. From the very beginning, the creation of this production seemed like a journey. «There was no choice as to what to do. I only had to go with the flow,» he said. «It was a journey of the soul…» Things could not be otherwise, for everything in the production requires high artistic standards, and it promises to be a quality performance. To begin with, the play is based on one of Graham Greene’s most well-loved novels («And to think that he wrote it just for fun,» said the director), a novel that Havergal adapted and directed in a much-awarded theatrical production which is now being presented for the first time in Greece. Another challenge is that the play has 25 different roles, both female and male, divided among only four actors (Dimitris Koutrouvideas, Dimitris Stamoulis, Dimitris Moschonas and Babis Hatzidakis). In directing the play, Hatzidakis was guided by the intentions of Havergal, though his advice to directors is: «You can direct the play in any way you wish.» His choice was to adhere to the way in which it was originally directed and performed. In the theatrical adaptation of the novel, the narrator is the main hero. The story he tells is of his different lives, the different sides to his personality. «The play is smart and original in that it does not follow a standard narration. The characters are borne of the narrator’s imagination,» says Babis Hatzidakis. In the plot, Henry Pulling meets Aunt Augusta at the funeral of his mother. This is where everything begins. Henry is a retired, former bank employee who likes growing dahlias. His aunt (who at the end of the play turns out to be his mother) takes him with her on her various «trips» and, in an almost magical way, helps put an end to the inertia that rules his life. There is Brighton, Constantinople and Buenos Aires. Also part of the plot are Nelson, the aunt’s friend and roommate, the drugs and the ex-girlfriend of Henry’s father. There is also humor. «Wouldn’t we all love to have such an aunt?» says a smiling Hatzidakis. In his first debut as a director, he has the support of committed collaborators: Tassos Tiros, who was in charge of the translation, Spyros Kotsopoulos, who did the set design, Anna Mahairianaki, who designed the costumes, Katerina Maragoudaki, in charge of lighting, and Eleni Panayiotou, the assistant director. At the Theatro tou Iliou (10 Frynihou, Plaka, tel 210.323.1591).