Performance of Ancient Drama in Ancient Messene
The Tragedians show the way to the light
by Ioanna Kleftogianni - Eleftherotypia 11 August 2010
“Light and dark”. It is the title of a composition of ancient tragedies by Nikos Dionysios that will be presented this Friday, at the beautiful and newly restored Ekklesiasterion of Asklipieion in Ancient Messene. A magical space also known as Odeon.
A panoramic photograph of Ekklesiasterion is where the performance of the ancient tragedies will take place this coming Friday. The walk to the theatre is definitely worthwhile if only for the experience and its good energy. The distinguished Greek director and actor Nikos Dionysios (Mitrogiannopoulos) composed text from five tragedies, that will be performed only once in the exceptional archaeological site of Ancient Messene. The five tragedies: “Bacchae” “by Euripides, that constitutes also the starting point of this undertaking, “Prometheus Bound” by Aeschylus, “Eumenides” from the Aeschylean trilogy “Oresteia”, “Oedipus King” by Sophocles and “Seven Against Thebes” by Aeschylus.
“With this synthesis we want to show how starting from the dark we can finally be driven to the light”, stresses Nikos Dionysios. The pivotal bind of this optimistic compilation is <the “gifts” of Prometheus to the people”>. He adds, <The play is connected together by themes; “darkness” and “curse”. These tie up the heroes as would an umbilical cord>. <The curse also burdens the authority and the tragic heroes of the three poets: Pentheus, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Oedipus and his children. Dramaturgically, all begin from the “Bacchae” and Thebes. And little by little the thread is unfolded…”.
Nikos Dionysios perceives that “Antigone is the first light within the circle of dark power which encompasses the human factor, and personifies the Chorus. Antigone appears to show that her personal values are above the orders from authority”.
The Chorus plays the central part in the performance as the “observer” using the choric odes as transition from one tragedy to the other. They see, but do not participate. It is the Chorus in the end that offers to the other Chorus (the audience) the hope that we (the people) alone, can find the light in the dark”, continues Nikos Dionysios, giving an indirect interpretation of the title of his play.
The Chorus is the foundation
His years of work on the ancient drama led him to the conclusion that “the foundation of tragedy is the Chorus, but also the speech (poetry)”. “We should rediscover, stresses the director, our relationship with it. As we also owe to rediscover the poetry of the Greek language and find ways to express this (poetry) to the contemporary audience. This does not mean classic retrospection”, he clarifies. And he gives the example with his performance.
In “Light and dark” our glance is very modern, he says. “We speak “contemporary” with current messages. Always via the text of the tragedians and all we can imagine from their work”.
The performance is not addressed to the experts. “It is addressed to all, and indeed to the local Messenian public. It is not a classical/traditional work, neither a proposal for the initiated. It is a play based on the atmosphere, the poetry, the musicality of the ancient text, and the performing abilities of the actors”.
Nikos Dionysios has the self-confidence to venture this ambitious mixing of the tragedies, thanks to his long service to the ancient drama with his double attribute of the actor and the director. He began from the Popular Experimental Theater of Leonidas Trivizas. He has interpreted Orestes in the homonym tragedy of Euripides, Eteocles in “Seven Against Thebes”, Euripides in “Women of Thesmoforia” by Aristophanes. Simultaneously, he has directed in Canada and England ancient drama, while in the past few year, thanks to a European program, he directed in Corfu “Seven Against Thebes” and the “Bacchae”, that travelled from Corfu and Patras to Albania and Italy.
“Light and dark” goes up this Friday, at 9.00 p.m., free to the public, at the Ekklesiasterion of Ancient Messene. The final assiduity and compilation of the texts is by the director-choreographer Nikos Dionysios and his permanent associate and assistant Fivi Fildissi. Costumes: Bianca Nikolareizi. Music: Andreas Kalogeras. Cello: Barbara Tsotra. Performers: Nikos Dionysios, Kostas Arzoglou, Kostas Laos, Nadia Mourouzi, Ermina Gerardi, Katerina Milioti and Artemis Orfanidi.
Workshop “Dionysios”, Ithome, old school house
“The most ambitious undertaking is not the presentation of 5 tragedies”, says the artist, “but that Fivi Fildissi and I founded the theatrical non-profit organisation (Dionysios Theater Company DTC), based in Ancient Messene this year as well”.“The space has special energy and purity. It makes you feel new” says Nikos Dionysios about ancient Messene. Their goal is the exploration of ancient Greek tragedy via seminars, master classes, conferences and performances, “that will complete our work”.
The beginning was, if anything, hospitable. The municipality of Ithome granted to them the old school as space for rehearsals. Ancient Messene will be their permanent base but their work will reach further out of the Greek borders.
Nikos Dionysios’ decision to tie up anchor in Ancient Messene, after his successful collaborations with Royal Albert Hall, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Actors Center London, has a personal reason. “It is my return”, he reveals. “The region of Ancient Messene, specifically the village Anthoussa, is my place of origin”. He was abroad for years and seeking “a space with good energy” that led him to the ancestral dens. “The region and especially Ancient Messene has a particular energy and purity. It makes you feel that you are in the beginning. Everything starts from here ”.