Bossa nova party celebrating life and love takes over at the National Theater

How on earth did the Greek National Theater and Constantinos Rigos come up with bossa nova as a theme? And what exactly is the show, titled «Bossa Nova… Live!» which premiered at the National’s Kotopouli-Rex stage last weekend, all about? There are two interesting things to note about this production. Firstly, its fresh and original approach reflects a change of tack and something of a daring venture for the new management under Yiannis Houvardas of the somewhat «classic» National. Secondly, this new production by the charismatic choreographer Rigos and his 20 actors, dancers and musicians earned a reputation back when it was in the rehearsal stage and has lived up to it with a lively spectacle that is fun, moving and funny. Rigos, who came up with the concept, directed the show, choreographed it and designed the sets, told Kathimerini a bit about «Bossa Nova… Live!» So, what exactly is this show? It’s a show/party. Have you timed it with the Carnival season? No, but in honor of life and love. This is why it has a 1960s feel without being retro. We chose this period because people really used to have fun back then, real fun. We also chose this period because the aesthetic was clear-cut, more specific – everything after the 70s changed, became polluted. Is the party in Athens? No, Rio. It’s set there because the entertainment is more glam, the women and men are beautiful… love on the beach, the Carnival – all the standards of fun and nonchalance. Walking around Copacabana Beach two years ago, I felt the need to bring this fresh, nonchalant feel to the stage. I basically wanted to talk about love – something I’m doing for the first time ever in my work. What do you say about love? I talk about what happens in a relationship. The gradual course from flirtation to the breakup, loneliness, and then back again. We follow the course of the relationship through 10 couples at the party. Does every couple have its own story? No, it is one story with small moments that are individual to each couple. It is like a mosaic, which is why the stage floor is a reproduction of a mosaic sidewalk in Copacabana. Is it better to book balcony seats then? The performance looks completely different depending on where you are sitting. From high up, you see psychedelic colors and shapes; from the lower seats, it has greater psychological depth, it is more glamorous, very Hollywood. What made you decide to include actors in the cast? When Yiannis Houvardas asked me to use actors in everything I do, he found a willing participant. I wanted to have performers of different aesthetics. Body movement and energy are handled differently by dancers than by actors. I wanted the different body movements, the different ways of delivering prose. Is there prose at the party? Yes, and lots of it. There are extracts from foreign literature (Sarah Kane, Brett Easton Ellis, Louis Aragon) and texts that were created during rehearsal. What about the music? There is a band playing at the party and everyone sings classic bossa nova tunes along to it: «The Girl from Ipanema,» «Orfeu Negro,» «Blue Bossa,» «Manyata» and the wonderful «Blame it on the Bossa Nova,» which is the backbone of the performance. There is also original music written by Dimosthenis Drivas for those «supernatural» bits, for when we are out of the party atmosphere. What does the set consist of? A palm tree like in Rio, the Copacabana mosaic floor and a table. The costumes are very shiny, the dominant colors are white, gold and black, and there is a good smattering of 1960s kitsch. There is certainly a lounge atmosphere, which is so common today all over the world. Everything seems glamorous and glitzy on the surface but is decaying underneath. We see luxury hotels, islands built especially for dream holidays, skyscrapers popping up on the horizon, while in reality the climate is worsening, water is becoming scarcer, as is oil, disasters strike everywhere… And we just sing about it… Blame it on the bossa nova… pass the buck.