CULTURE

The eternal fate of the world’s small individual

“Thank you for not asking me whether I am from Skopje or Macedonia.» How important could a national definition be for neighbor Slobodan Unkovski, the director who has been living in Greece for the past three months serving his art at the National Theater of Northern Greece (NTNG)? Unkovski feels he is a resident of Thessaloniki – «I have forgotten I am a foreigner,» he says, having built strong friendships in the port city. The acclaimed theater director is also a former FYROM culture minister. In fact he was the neighboring country’s first minister of culture to officially visit Greece. Since then he hasn’t stopped urging: «Let’s not waste valuable time. Even if the political issues between the two countries cannot be solved anytime soon, we should get to know each other and work together on a cultural level.» The NTNG’s invitation to put his signature on an ancient tragedy for the first time came as a «gift» to the director’s 37-year-old career. «I accepted immediately because Epidaurus is a dream and a challenge at the same time. It is a long road, but I have to admit I am more in awe than scared. I was wondering how powerful ancient tragedy is in the 21st century and I came to the conclusion that it was, is and will remain the nucleus of future theater.» Unkovski directs Euripides’ tragedy «Orestes,» which he studied in depth. «It is a difficult and complex work, but that is where its beauty lies.» «While writing what was probably his last play in 408 BC, Euripides was very bitter. He maintained the tragedy structure but at the same time, because of his own problems, he attempted to comment on the gods,» said the director. «I followed the translation very faithfully. I didn’t change a single word; I turned the writer’s words into stage movements and I touched upon the comic elements.» One of the director’s major dilemmas was deciding which interventions were allowed and which ones weren’t. «We have the myth, but at the same time there is people’s faith and the relationship between the gods and the people. Orestes’ fate, for instance, is a crucifixion. He is one of the few characters of international theater who mourns so much for his victim, his own mother.» Unkovski’s take was influenced by his own experiences, which make him observe that «the system and the great gap between the state and citizens» leads to the eternal question: Where does justice lie – is it in the laws or in people’s own hands? «This is a deeply political play. There are scenes that prove how vulnerable and sensitive democracy is. Even today, it is frequently questionable whether democratic decisions made by governments were indeed as democratic as claimed by those who implemented them. That is why this play is still valid today, 2,500 years on.» Unkovski believes that the tragedy’s strongest point is its commentary. «What lies behind all this is the citizen’s voice, which is essentially fading away. His views are not very powerful, even more so back then. That is why in the production the chorus is slowly dying, without anybody paying any particular attention. This is one of the major issues facing world society today. I don’t know if divine justice exists. Our own fate is the fate of the small individual.» Euripides’ «Orestes» is currently on stage at the Dassos Theater in Thessaloniki until Saturday. The production will travel to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus as part of the Greek Festival on August 1 and 2. For more information, go to www.greekfestival.gr.