Greek Theatre in the Age of Depression (Greece)
As Elli Papakonstantinou, director of the avant-garde multi-ethnic performance group ODC, claims, “[our] ensemble is a politically oriented group. As practitioners and as citizens of a country that stands as a worldwide ‘showcase’ for politicians and bankers and for the ongoing struggle to preserve democracy, we are motivated by an urge to reinvent the role of Art. For us, Art must now stand in the front line of opposition and questioning.
ODC ensemble creates engaged art, out of the box, in unexpected spaces and with the participation of volunteers who have no previous art experience. Our aim is to provoke, question and in times of national shock, break taboos and theatrical conventions”. An observation that recalls Walter Benjamin’s description of the Dadaists’ art as an “instrument of ballistics that hits the spectators like a bullet” (Benjamin 1968: 197), removing them beyond their realm of understanding to a new way of perceiving actions and events.
ODC’s deconstructive work on the end of grand narratives engages fiercely with the postmodern dramatic idiom and local forms of popular entertainment and political rhetoric. A good example of that is META, the group’s recent site- specific performance put on in an abandoned tannery in Botanicos (Vyrsodepsio, 2010), with the help of experienced actors and activists. As the director makes the point in ODC’s electronic page, “META is not just a performance; [but] a public discussion on WHAT COMES AFTER (META)?”; a work on the meaning of the end (TELOS) of narratives and the relation of people to society in a moment of crisis”.
This same idea of loss is also central in their next site-specific project, Derma (Skin, 2012), a “tribute to mechanical work, monotony, mourning and apathy,” as the director claims. By incorporating dance, music and visual arts, both performances dramatize what is going on now in Greece and the world in general and at the same time bridge the gap between the real and the theatrical, the professional actor and the amateur, the realistic and the bizarre. It is the ensemble’s answer to the question of the country’s two major national theatres, “What is a homeland?”: a series of estrangements.
Savvas Patsalidis | Critical Stages: The IATC webjournal | June 2013, Issue No.8