Examining violence on stage

Following Torsten Buchsteiner’s «Nordost,» which was based on the Chechen independence struggle, and «Motortown» by Simon Stephens, which addresses Iraq, yet another play about war is coming to Athens: «Penetrator» by Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, at the Epi Kolono Theater. Essentially, all three plays address violence in general. They are political, but the friction between the collective and the individual is given great relevance. In «Penetrator» two unemployed flatmates, Alan and Max, kill time by staying up late, until they get a visit from Tadge, an old friend and Iraq war veteran. This is just the beginning in this psychological thriller, which reaches its climax in the powerful finale. Though the play was written shortly after the Gulf War of 1990-91, the playwright’s instructions stipulated that it should be adapted to current events every time it is staged. The director of the production at the Epi Kolono Theater, Giorgos Paloumbis, did just that. «Our Tadge is returning from Baghdad today,» he says. What interested Paloumbis in the play? «The amazing interplay between the climate of fear, humor, awkwardness, confinement and homecoming, and the interplay between the horseplay in a group of male friends and the sudden outbreak of verbal, psychological and physical violence,» he says. «Another very interesting aspect of this play,» says Paloumbis, «is that the playwright loves musicals and he wants his audience to have fun. Generally, Nielson believes that a production should end when his audience is starting to feel restless in their seats and are starting to get tired. He usually goes to the rehearsals of his plays and when he starts to get tired, he works out an improved version of the play.» Nielson is one of the three big names of «in-yer-face» theater, together with Sarah Kane, who committed suicide in 1999, and Mark Ravenhill. It was a movement that took off in the 1990s, which is inspired by experimental theater and expresses the angry youth of the 50s. In-yer-face is about aggressive structures, violent forms, vitriolic sarcasm, social criticism and existential gloom. However, as Paloumbis says, «nothing specific happened for this movement to come about. They decided to write a manifesto and, one minute later, they went back on it. The good thing about it is that it revealed a wave of new young playwrights in England – some were exceptional and some were rubbish.» What is different today? «I think the shock movement was needed at the time,» says Paloumbis. «We still need it today, but times are different, the world is not afraid to speak out, and at the same time it is not afraid to be criticized.» «Penetrator,» at the Epi Kolono Theater Tuesdays and Wednesdays, stars Dimitris Lalos, Manos Kannavos and Stathis Stamoulakatos. Epi Kolono Theater, 12 Nafpliou, Kolonos, tel 210.513.8067.