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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 3 November 2018
16 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 3 NOVEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Inspired by Homer, Dimitris Papaioannou’s The Great Tamer heads to Australia The Greek stage director speaks to Neos Kosmos in London where his latest production, The Great Tamer is being staged to rave reviews MARIA ATHINI O n the tube travelling on the northern line to Sadler's Wells, I grab a copy of the Evening Standard and spot a review full of praise for the opening night of stage director Dimitris Papaioannou's latest production The Great Tamer, "wonderfully moving" is the finishing sentence. These are rare moments of pride for us Greeks in London, when one 'of us' manages to transcend our community and reach out to the metropolis. This is a particularly lucky week, with Yorgos Lanthimos' latest film screening at the London Film Festival. The director and PHOTOS: JULIAN MOMMERT choreographer's work was not particularly known to the British audience. This is the second time he stages his work in the UK after Primal Matter in 2016, again under the Dance Umbrella international festival. The Great Tamer has already been staged in more than 20 cities around the world, some of them as far as Taiwan and Seoul. After London, the show will continue touring abroad in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the USA, Canada, and in February will head Down Under to the Perth Festival. Papaioannou will then return to Sadler's Wells with Since She for the Tanzteatre Wuppertal Pina Bausch as the first choreographer to present his work with the group following Pina's death in 2009. Sadler's Wells is considered to be the headquarters of European dance theatre; the meeting point for all creatives where new ideas sail to Europe and the world. Historically it is one of the two oldest theatre stages in London together with Royal Drury Lane, counting four centuries of continuous artistic presence since late the 17th century. The contemporary studio has a capacity of 1,500 and tonight, for a second evening in a row, it is fully packed. The poster of the performance is decorated with the honorary ribbon that reads 'sold out'. I have managed to get a ticket for the second evening, offered to me by Papaioannou's partners, only because Neos Kosmos had already booked the interview with him. I vaguely remembered from his previous work Dyo, which I had seen several years ago in Athens rather atmospheric scenes, frame by frame like paintings, coming to life and opening up their world to invite you in and allowing you to wander through. I met with Papaioannou the following day in the lobby of his hotel. We had never met in Athens before 2004, when he was the talk of the town ahead of the Olympic Games, and when I was working for a magazine - "when there were still some magazines", we laugh, though not without some bitterness for the sad turn of events in Greece. Of course he is aware of that morning's review - yet another positive one - of his show, published in The Times where among other things we read "Kudos to Dance Umbrella for presenting an intriguing duet by Papaioannou in 2016 and now, as part of the festival's 40th anniversary, this largescale work for 10 performers". "In Britain the audience does not usually greet the performers with a standing ovation," I tell him, "unless they really like what they've just seen." It's true, after all, audiences in London are spoilt, used to watching performances of a very high standard. "This is a real compliment for me," he replies, modest, without exhibiting any signs of arrogance. The Great Tamer reminded me of Alexander Pope's words from The Dunciad: "Great Tamer of all, human art!" I took the book with me to discuss it with Dimitris. No, Papaioannou didn't copy Pope. Pope copied Homer. Who is 'The Great Tamer'? Homer refers to the 'all tamer time'. My dear friend Angelos Mentis, who is the 'godfather' of all my plays, decided that we should name this play The Great Tamer and not The All Tamer as it bears many similarities to [a] circus. Indeed, the performance is about a great circus, the circus of our mind where time is the great tamer. The dancers are forming with their bodies creatures that can barely move or are flying over the stage. A woman with two men's legs. Dismantled members, arms and legs moving on the stage, the body always at the epicentre. Naked or trapped like in the astronaut's costume, heavily breathing or like the dancer with crotches, fully covered in plaster. What is the meaning of all this? It's a mirroring, a reflection. Each viewer can take it as they will. I noticed that the audience was quite puzzled. For years, I felt comfortable with the Greek audience. But when we are playing in front of an international audience, I feel a new sense of enthusiasm because their sense of freedom rubs off on me. They feel free to walk out of the theatre, or stand up and scream out in joy. Honestly, I wouldn't mind if someone were to walk out; I respect their opinion. I enjoy the dynamics of this interaction. The fact they feel puzzled after the performance is also very fulfilling for me. The show is a sequence of scenes, poetic, allegoric, surrealistic, all from inside the all tamer, time. It comes in fragments, but there is a very strong link beneath the surface and a narration with extremely high aesthetics. The pace is very slow, - a "zombie pace" as The Guardian wrote (another 5-star review) - and doesn't change for the entire 100 minute performance. The music, based on the Blue Danube by Strauss, has been adapted by Stephanos Droussiotis and sounds like it is being played in the wrong tempo. There is no tension. Ever. You never raise your tone. You don't shock, you don't provoke attention. I know, I do it on purpose. I don't want to steal any attention by making noise, I want my audience to come and find me. What Papaioannou proposes is a dialogue in two stages. Stage one is happening at the moment we are viewing the scene. Stage two, is what follows afterwards in our thoughts and our feelings. Some scenes are taken directly from famous paintings like the 'Anatomy Lesson' by Rembrandt or 'Narcissus' by Salvador Dali where the dancer is watching his own reflection and splashing real water from a small lake. After the show I overheard some conversations about poetry, painting, philosophy. To communicate without words, I need to go back to our shared memories, the archetypes, the history of art. It's a crack through which I try to sneak inside and speak without words. My topic is philosophical, existential. It's the meaning of life, or what's the fucking point? In a review published in Le Monde newspaper, a journalist wondered "does someone have to be Greek to develop fragmentary art to such a degree?" What do you have to say to that?
27 October 2018
10 November 2018