The board of directors of Greece’s prestigious National Theater on Friday criticized a decision by its artistic director to cancel the remaining performances of a play that contains excerpts of a book written by November 17 terrorist Savvas Xiros, following complaints and alleged threats.
“Theater is all about freedom of expression and free dialogue,” the board said in a statement.
“Since when has anything been taboo in art? If this invisible list of prohibitions were to prevail, we would have to strike masterpieces of literature, cinema and theater from existence,” it said.
“Art ought to host the voice of the victims but also of wrongdoers. Or no Shakespeare play would be staged,” it said.
On Thursday National Theater artistic director Stathis Livathinos decided to scrap the play, named “Nash’s Equilibrium,” claiming that he did not want to give the impression it condones “criminals forever condemned in the conscience of the Greek people.”
In a statement, Livathinos expressed his regret that the play had become the “subject of political exploitation,” adding that there had been threats of violence aimed at the actors and theater-goers.
The staging of the play has sparked a heated debate on Greek media and social media regarding art, politics and the limits of free expression.
In a statement on Friday, the ruling SYRIZA party said the decision to scrap the play was a “sad development.”
“Our solidarity with the families of the victims of N17 is a given, but so is our defense for the freedom of artistic expression,” it said.
Some 300-400 people rallied outside the National Theater late on Friday following a Facebook call against “censorship.”
Os Edo (Enough), an organization which represents relatives of the victims of terrorism, slammed the play, saying that “it is clear that the absolution of Mr Xiros is some people’s constant and persistent priority.”
The US Embassy in Athens was also drawn into the debate.
“While art should not be censored, we join Os Edo in questioning if the public should fund the art of a terrorist,” a tweet from the embassy said.