Poetry praising death makes for fascinating show

Can a performance that lauds death become a hit? Of course, it can. That is, as long as the melancholy stiff classical language used by Athenian romantic poets in the 1860s and the morbid fascination with cemeteries, isolated venues and forests are rendered in style and in such a way that they have something to say to us, the people of 2010. «Graveyard Cafe Band / In Extremis,» one of the most eccentric performances currently staged in Greece, has succeeded in that respect, guaranteeing a good way to spend a Monday or Tuesday evening at Taf (The Art Foundation, 5 Normanou, Monastiraki, tel 210.323.8757). The basis for this weird spectacle is the work of some «strange» creatures, poets naturally, all of whom spent their youth in Athens in the second half of the 19th century, glorifying death, one of humanity’s gloomiest aspects, in the aftermath of French romanticism. First in line are Dimitris Paparrigopoulos (1843-1873) and Spyridon Vasiliadis (1845-1874), who barely made it to their 30s. They are joined by the likes of Achilleas Paraschos, Platon Rodokanakis and Ioannis Karasoutsas, among others. This unfamiliar and morbid way of expression takes over the tiny stage through songs and recitations by the actors of the Paspartou company, whose choice of appearance references different phases of the Romantic movement: The woman looks like she has been taken out of the Italian romantic comedy tradition, the man is reminiscent of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Romantic Expressionism and the young violinist pays tribute to the rock sense of aesthetics, a combination of Jim Morrison and Johnny Depp put together, according to the performance’s director, Yiannis Skourletis, an artist and set designer who has been a fan of the goth aesthetic for years. The poems as well as the texts, which have been written by Christos Kanellopoulos, reach the audience through a modern music composition that is performed live on stage, bridging the gap between the two worlds. The music, along with the actors-performers’ abilities, provides a good dose of humor for the morbid verses which, nonetheless, are the real winners in the show. Just take in the rich language in Paparrigopoulos’s «Odi sto fano tou nekrotafiou» (Ode to the Cemetery Lantern).

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