Subversive symbolism and ephemeral classicism:
a modern Greek trilogy.
You may ask yourself: “What could classical Greek theatre, modern dance and Margaret Atwood's poetry possibly have in common?” (Then again. you may not). However, this is a very good question. The answer lies in Ephemera: A Modern Trilogy, a play that will have its North American premiere at Hart House Theatre November 3-7.
Ephemera is the creation of Nikos Mitrogiannopoulos, a Greek with extensive experience in the European theatre both as a director and actor. Mitrogiannopoulos has a solid background in classical Greek theatre. He is a dancer, and is passionately interested in creating a new experience for theatre audiences. “l want to create an atmosphere for the audience. This is the way to get the audience to participate. to feel'', he said.
Audiences have already responded with feeling to the Greek staging of Ephemera when it was produced in Athens in 1984. The production won Best Performance of the Year and praise from European critics. Although the basic, dynamic elements of Ephemera are the same, the production that arrives at Hart House Theatre tomorrow will be quite a different play, using Canadian poetry instead of Greek.
Mitrogiannopoulos chose the poetry of Atwood to form a dialogue within the play, and to help describe Canadian society. Atwood's poems create a text for the play, although they are not blatantly critical of society per se. But the controlled fury and biting sarcasm is typical of the poetry within the larger context of the play.
Mitrogiannopoulos sees ''very serious problems" in contemporary society. Accordingly, he does not treat those problems lightly in Ephemera. In every aspect of his creation - the ethereal music, the minimalist choreography, and the characters themselves - he is trying to project society on the stage, with all its debilitating elements - the dehumanisation, mechanisation and apathy.
“These are problems everywhere'', he said. Mitrogiannopoulos said that in Canada, as in Greece, it is often the poetry of the country that gives one extra insight into the particular nature of a country's existence. The play either overtly or subversively represent aspects of modern society. Mitrogiannopoulos noted that "European audiences are used to this symbolism in the theatre'' and acknowledged that audiences here may have quite a different reaction. But it is precisely a reaction that this director wants. He is somewhat of a populist regarding his audience. "if you want to make theatre you have to offer something; you have to be honest with the people," he said.
Ephemera's combination of various performance arts might be termed experimentalist, and it will most likely pull few punches when it opens tomorrow night; but the director is not striving for theatrical cheap shots, as is done with so many experimental plays.
With its reliance on poetry, Ephemera: A Modern Trilogy is both old and new. Those who love the Greek tragedy and those who love performance art should find some level in Ephemera to which they can relate. Mitrogiannopoulos himself affirms that ''successful theatre always works on different levels".
BY JEAN MCNEIL
Varsity Staff Writer