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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 7 May 2016
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 7 MAY 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ‘Greece is not a devastated country’ Theatre director and dramaturg Yannis Kalavrianos speaks of his recent successful productions in Athens, Nicosia and New York, and expresses his determination to continue working on his seminal play, Sons and Daughters, a recounting of Greek history from the perspective of ordinary people, hoping to incorporate the true stories of the Greek diaspora NIKOS FOTAKIS Even among the elite crowd that are theatre directors, Yannis Kalavrianos is standing out. Not only because he quit practicing medicine in order to devote himself to the theatre, but because he did this at a time when theatre in Greece became a risky venture. Athens, after all, is the home of no less than 145 theatre companies, an impressive number by any account. Most of them are struggling, to say the least, given the dire financial straits the country is trying to cope with. And yet, Kalavrianos managed to grow as a director in this hostile environment, creating a body of work that provides valuable insight into the Greek psyche, as well as the state of Europe at the moment. This year alone, he directed two critically-acclaimed plays, in Athens (Zerline and the House of Hunters, based on an excerpt of Hermann Broch's novel The Guiltless) and in Nicosia (Our Class by Tadeusz Slobodzianek), both dealing with the rise of fascism in Europe. He is currently working on a theatrical version of Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights, to be staged next January in Thessaloniki, and he's part of a very ambitious international theatre project on the current migrant crisis, called Phone Home. But if he's about to leave a legacy behind, this will be none other than Sons and Daughters, the play he created by recording and editing the narrations of dozens of elderly people from every part of Greece, recounting the people's perspective of the country's history spanning the better part of the 20th century, from the Asia Minor catastrophe, to the triumph of the Athens Olympic games of 2004. The play has been presented in Spain, Italy and BosniaHerzegovina to great acclaim, and last month it was staged at the Greek Cultural Centre in New York. Speaking to Neos Kosmos, Yannis Kalavrianos confessed that he wants to keep building on this play, hoping to present it to the broader Greek diaspora, and shared his thoughts on the current plight of Greece and Europe in general. Both plays you directed in Greece and Cyprus this year are tools to understand Europe's dark side, right? Zerline is about a middleclass household during the interwar period. The people are only dealing with their small, mundane problems and fail to look at what's happening outside; when they do, they realise that the monster of fascism has spread all over. Our Class is a play based on the real events that took place in Jedwabne, a Polish town in which Catholics and Jews co-existed for centuries, up to the summer of 1941, when the Catholics gathered all their Jewish neighbours in a shed and burnt them alive. The atrocity was attributed to the Nazis, but in 2000 a documentary filmmaker, Agnieszka Arnold, found some of the survivors, unearthed archives and proved who were in fact the perpetrators, in the documentary Neighbours, that ignited a huge discourse in Poland. The play states how seemingly simple and naive people can be transformed into true monsters. Evil is not something unknown, or related to certain groups of people. Under certain circumstances, we can all do ugly things. What is important is to be alert, in order to prevent our dark side from emerging.
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