Fun and games ‘with a bit of everything thrown in’

«The audience won’t be greatly surprised. They will see an even better side to my best side. I will still perform songs, but in a different ambience. There will be a fun atmosphere – lights, colors, explosions, inventive stage sets, even dance. We’ll run round and round and there will certainly be images. It’s a game with a bit of everything thrown in.» This is how Melina Tanagri describes the Roes Theater production «Play… opos epipleei» (Go With the Flow), a relaxed show combining music with dance and theater, which she prepared with Yiotis Kiourtsoglou and Sophia Spyratou. Starting this Friday, it will run for five successive weekends – on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – against a pitch-black stage background that will set off Tanagri’s brilliant red hair, if nothing else, an eye-catching spectacle for the audience in itself. The idea was Tanagri’s, but they all worked upon it together. In any case, the red-haired singer-songwriter has always sought out another perspective throughout her 20-year career without, however, the competitiveness which typifies the music business. Her main goal has always been to make songs that please her. «I wanted to do something more than just stand with other musicians on a stage and perform my songs. I’ve done similar things in the past; that’s how I started off. I got sidetracked along the way and forgot about the games that I liked so much.» It’s not that she is bent on doing something absolutely new. «I’ve done this kind of thing lots of times. But right now, I’m doing all the things that I wanted to try out all these years, and I have lots of ideas. I put them to one side every so often, either because I don’t have the means to set them in motion or because I’m being lazy. And then I see someone else doing the same thing. Not because they’ve stolen the ideas, but because there’s a general need for something like this.» This time, the need was so great that it finally pushed her into action. «I met Sophia last year at ‘Savvorama’ and liked the way she looks at things. When I suggested the show to her, she said OK, but we needed a third ingredient and so we thought of Yiotis. We’re all artists, unique in our respective fields, who do what we want.» This was the basic factor which united them. «And I do what I want, but you know what things are like in this business. You get absorbed by it all and forget that the basic thing is to enjoy yourself and not to get sucked into a race where you end up chasing things that you don’t really want.» And thus people reach the point where they grumble that there are very few records and live performances today that contain the element of unpredictability. «What’s important is to do the work differently, and as you feel it, definitely. Records of today are becoming irrelevant when they should be relevant. You see people that you are constantly being forced to listen to, to such a merciless extent that everything becomes unrecognizable. I’m not finding fault with any system, bear that in mind; I’m simply commenting on the situation at present. And I’ve realized that it doesn’t give me any pleasure, nor do the people whom I liked as artists in the past. When I see this furious production line pushing them along, I no longer recognize them.» The musical production «Play… opos epipleei» is based on a game of inversions. The audience does not watch a standard performance but experiences the spectacle from its preparation stage, as they enter the theater. Along with the artists on stage, there are also Miltos Papastamou (violin), Giorgos Kaloudis (cello and percussion) and the dancers of the Roes, Atalanti Mourouzi, Patricia Lazou and Taolando Fera, who all get ready for what is to follow. They change roles and improvise, without excluding the possibility of audience participation. They want their musical selections to be unpredictable. No one should expect the production to encompass the whole of Melina Tanagri’s repertoire. It includes a diverse range of material, from ethnic to new wave to Greek popular and folk music. The audience will hear the singer-songwriter performing a repertoire that she has not sung before, such as a piece by Lou Reed, and will also be able to enjoy the compositions of the talented Yiotis Kiourtsoglou. What is the key to all this? «The element of rhythm as well as that of improvisation. We’re not doing anything strange but doing easy things differently. Everything has been more or less said and done before. The thing is to get the right combinations and ingredients.» It comes as a surprise to hear Tanagri claim that she is lazy. Indeed, since her early years, she has accustomed people to the exact opposite. She studied history of art and archaeology at the Sorbonne, tried her luck at the theater with classes at the school of Tania Balachona, and direction at the school of St Martin’s, and first became famous through Dionysios Savvopoulos’s «Acharnes.» Restless perhaps, but not lazy. «Ultimately, the only luxury I’ve allowed myself is that of time. When I need to speed up I do, but I don’t need to have my foot on the gas pedal all the time.» Economic security is, of course, necessary for this. «I live from singing, doing it almost as I want. We’re not like dancers who work hard but are paid little. Singers are paid well; I don’t have any complaints. In this world, I can do whatever takes my fancy.»

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