In 2008 and 2099, the Epidaurus Ancient theatre had two tempestuous summer seasons, when the productions of Anatoly Vasiliev and Dimitar Gotsev were greeted with inconceivable hostility and fanaticism. Is the Epidaurus theatre sacred ground?
Kostas Georgousopoulos, Anatoly Vasiliev, Dimitar Gotsev, Amalia Moutoussi, Lydia Koniordou, Grigoris Ioannidis, Dimitris Mavrikios, Michael Marmarinos and Nikos Karathanos.
That two-part “Paraskinio” resulted as a need to account for the furious reactions coming from
a big part of the audience at Epidaurus, during the performances of Medea, staged by Russian Anatoly Vasiliev, in 2008, and of The Persians, by Bulgarian-german director Dimitar Gotsev, in 2009.
The reactions were outrageous and I decided to make the “Paraskinio” documentary, while the matter was still ‘hot’.
That is why all the interviews are so intense.
I opted for two episodes, since the subject was, and regrettably still is, enormous and every aspect had to be covered.
This two-part picture attempted, and I reckon it succeeded, to bring forward a number of issues.
Do we have the right to set limitations on artistic expression? Should we judge artists depending on their nationality? Should we make adaptations of classic Greek texts? Should we decide in advance who does and who doesn’t respect tradition? And also, What is tradition? How is the staging of a Greek tragedy at Epidaurus parallel to religious feeling?
These are a few of the questions that were raised.
For the interviews, I decided to go for a wide range of diverse people. They covered every side of the spectrum and in some cases they took us by surprise.
There were two axis with markedly distinct characteristics.
On one side, was Kostas Georgousopoulos, the patriarch of theatre criticism, with a profound understanding of classic literature and a devotee of the traditional approach to ancient Greek texts.
On the other, was the young critic, Grigoris Ioannidis, who had just written an article in favor of The Persians stormy performance.
We were very fortunate to have had input by both protagonists of the controversy; Vasiliev and Gotsev, who being in a state of shock, half of the time were aggressive and the other half they defended themselves.
There were also two peripheral and auxiliary comments. Dimitris Mavrikios rooted for the traditional approach, himself being known for his revolutionary work, which could never be called conservative.
On the other hand, Michael Marmarinos embraced a no-constraints adaptation and, within a certain framework, cited the pulse of stage action as the most crucial factor. The pulse that is shaped during staging.
Apart from the aforementioned, there were three more (de facto) exceptional people.
Lydia Koniordou, who introduced herself as an unusual hybrid, combining the teachings of Koun and the tradition of the National theatre. It was her, Vasiliev had chosen, to play his controversial Medea.
Amalia Moutoussi had witnessed the two dreadful performances of The Persians, as Gotsev had her deliver some of her part, standing among the audience.
Therefore, she had to perform right next to indignant viewers, who were walking past her and leaving the theatre enraged.
And of course, Nikos Karathanos, who had the unfortunate privilege, in some karmic coincidence, to play the lead in all three productions that were booed at Epidaurus.
All of them were directed by foreigners; Medea by Vasiliev, The Persians by Gotsev and,
a few years earlier, The Bacchae by Langhoff.
All aspects were discussed and crossed together; it was a picture that felt like contemplative news reporting. It had covered the events, like news reporting would have, but with the desire to reflect upon a longtime phenomenon, whose artistic parameter is ultimately less importat than its sociopolitical and existential.
I will never forget Amalia at he Epidaurus theatre, where her interview was shot. She made an extraordinary and unreserved confession about how performing in that theatre is directly connected to her religious feeling and her faith in God.
And I will never forget how a marxist like Gotsev, who kept rejecting, throughout his interview, any idea of sanctity, in the end found himself expressing his awe of those ancient stones and the transcendental energy in the Epidaurus theatre.