Τετάρτη, 11 Απριλίου 2012

When "Henry the Vth", met a "Goat", in Paris!

My fellow Greek readers, who their command of English is not at a substantial level, this post needs to be written in English, to communicate the experience to my French and all other colleagues, who offered a dreamy experience in Paris, France in March 2012, on the occasion of the performance of 
"Henry the Vth. This is how we start...".

It was back in July 2009, when during a very interesting course I was attending in Paris, London and Berlin, in cooperation with RADA, the Actors Centre and the Int. Institute of Performing Arts and 40 amazing people, actors and artists from across the world, I met some very interesting French people. Crazy and French. You don't need more!

It so happened, that one of them, named Luc, approached me with a lot of respect and one nice thought!  He is part of an artistic company, a very active gang of really talented, I have to say people, with the French name "Le Bouc Sur Le Toit", which took me at least a year to learn to spell it correctly by heart, without looking at some notes! :).  This, in actual English translation means "The Goat on the roof", or in Greek "Ο Τράγος στη Σκεπή".   Which as I have also learned from my theatre encounters and adventures in France, the male goat in particular, symbolises "Drama", in the French theatrical scene. Get it?

Luc, came forward with a great idea.  Since it seems that in acting, and not exclusively, in arts in general, we can very well co-educate ourselves in an International programme, why don't we try to build a Pan-European experiment of different actors, from different countries,  speaking different languages, acting with different acting methods, different starting points and stories and yet one common love: playing, acting, being in this magical world, we call theatre!  And what greatest chance to discover one of the most prolific writers in the World, W. Shakespeare, a genius of words, texts, images, scenes through a common effort to build, create, perform in one of his classical texts, with a modern eye.  He had clearly set his mind in the story of "Henry the Vth", a rather "boring" for the French (and I think for most of us this side of the Channel and Dover) as it overflows with English patriotism and a war that was actually pretty devastating for my wine and cheese lover mates in the French land!  But wait..! The intention was not to focus, on a pure reproductive staging, a classical approach with the usual paraphernalia that accompany some Shakespeare productions, but to take it beyond that. I could never say NO, to such a delicious offer, and that's how, with the effect of drowsiness caused by almost 3 glasses of fresh, French wine, I accepted happily to become the Greek addition to this effort and was baptised the representative of "Henry the project" in Athens, Greece! We are talking about big stuff!

The text of "Henry the Vth", is full of images of a great King, a leader that brings change and creates new historic moments (for the English of course), as he conquers another land.  Now, that rung a bell with some modern invasions and leaders, like his honorary G. Bush, who decided to go to Iraq, to basically liberate,  the oil pipelines for the interests of the American companies.  How was this communicated to the common people in the US?  Sitting at a Bar in NYC, drinking a Budweiser and watching the announcement from a TV, none of all those bar people, could actually realise that their country is dragged to a war, that killed thousands of Iraqis and American Soldiers as well.  And this is just an example.  If we take a look in the European and generally Western societies in the last 20 years or so, you will see how many wars, invasions, etc. were staged, while the people had no idea what a devastating thing war is, since this is not staged in their lands. As long as it is not affecting their doorstep.  But others had to suffer. And there's no clear justification for staging a war for the so-called freedom of anybody from someone else.  I have a little and very graphic magnet at my fridge door, bought from flower power San Francisco that clearly says: "Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity!" :)

Moreover, the invasion of France, by the other than this very amicable English folks, was a very interesting point to start and examine, where do we currently stand in the European continent currently, after so much love affair with the EU, or with happy children holding hands in advertising spots and Beethoven musical pieces.  Have we really gone forward with our national prides and prejudices?  How integrated have we become?  Well, as it seems from the rise of extreme right political parties in France and across Europe, or of the most recent loathing with a lot of prejudices for the crisis stricken South, reproducing clichés from both sides, for the fascist Germans and the lazy Greeks, or Mafia Italians, it seems that we haven't really done too much, have we?  So, this text was also used to try and pass our worries, our beliefs that the game is getting a bit out of control.

Like any projects, "Henry the Vth" project, passed many stages from the small starting steps, like contacting other people to inform them and ask for their efforts and participation, but silently, meticulously, we put everything into track, for coming together in Paris, in March 2012, for this dream to start becoming a reality. It took hundreds of emails, establishing a good working relation with my French mates and slowly we added more people into this, like a fellow actress from Ireland, now in London, one or two British lads, who at the moment were not available, a great fellow from Belgium and apart from myself, other two Greek additions to the group. Talented and so sweet Dina Mihailidi, with her 25 years of history in the Theatre stages of Athens, and petite Dina (as we called her) Theodorou, with that sharp architecture mind in drawing and constructing stages, directing scenes and video animation.

And this is how we started. On 8th March, the Greek team arrived in the very interesting place, an old factory build by the Eiffel team, (yes, the one who build the tower you see in every pic in Paris) called "Avant Rue".

Virginie Berthier, the very adorable, beloved director, worked a lot with our instinct, allowing us freely to improvise on various scenes from the play.  Like a puzzle, she then put all these efforts into one place, creating with the cooperation of all of us, a devised performance.  Moreover, the artistic company, has requested from three French writers, to write new pieces, new text, their ideas on Europe of today, or on how they say Henry, how it inspired them or didn't.  The writing project took place in Northern Ireland, in a centre we are now in cooperation with at the city of Derry, where the great Irish issue, the divisions of the society have left amazing scars.  This was a good ground to grow words regarding a patriotic English king and text!

I was requested to use some of my emails and texts from my blog describing the deteriorating situation in Greece to my friends abroad during the last 3 years and try to incorporate them in the performance. The result was touching, translated at the moment of the performance from a French actress while I was speaking the words in English.  Blended together with one piece about the Europe of the Bankers and the Rate Agencies, the contrast was sharp and was taking place live on stage. One of the most powerful moments I have lived in this experience! The energy was immense! And the effect on the French audience too I believe.

The three different languages we speak, French, English and Greek, became a foundation, a splendid allocation of words and texts that broke barriers and with the help and use of the hyper-titles projected, it proved that nobody is actually bothered by what words the actor is speaking, but how he/she communicates those, his power, his standing on stage.  I believe that the parts in Greek or English, were communicated in the above way and with the help of the translation, the audience discovered something new and fresh.

The audience of almost 100 people, on Friday night the 23rd of March, seemed to appreciate the effort of a team of people that in almost two weeks, managed to put together speech, bodies, drama, video installation, hyper-titles, music and ideas into a performance with strong messages for the Europe we live today, about war and politics.

But most importantly, I feel great for making an idea to flourish.  We managed to bring into life, with this talented team of people who I thank from my bottom of my heart for the experience we shared, a simple thought. To prove that inter-cultural exchange is possible, that obstacles are always a good starting point, if you see them from a different angle.  We managed to prove, that as long as people are willing to take artistic risks and trust their instincts, images can be created, stories can be told, people can communicate.  Drama is a Greek invention that was perceived for this exact reason.  To bring together people under one roof or into the same place at a moment in time and to tell stories that feed the mind and the soul. That's why we all left from this adventure as the proud explorers of new grounds. Grounds of pure, raw, simple, magic exchange of energies, emotions, laughs, tears, problems, solutions, sharing the result with all those who managed to be part of this. We thank them all for their time and good comments.

This is just a start.  This was just the first taste of a story that has started to unfold and it's on the making.  Yes, we may need now some time for the result to settle and also for some funds to be gathered (by the way donations are happily accepted, ask here, at my email for any offers!!) but the big round theatre ball has started rolling and has no plans to stop.

To all my "Bouc Sur Le Toit", team, thank you for giving us in difficult times for our land, the opportunity and satisfaction to express ourselves, for our participation.  Thank you for being so hospitable, so caring for all our needs, so friendly.  Let's continue our trip together...

The amazing people on board at this stage, were:

Virginie Berthier, Jean-Marie Clairambault, Zita Cochet, Aurélie Cohen, Claire Dufour, Caroline Dumas de Rauly, Philippos Frangoulis, Bastien Gérard, Xavier Guerlin, Luc Guiol, Fabienne Labarthe, Peggy Lecaudé, Thomas Méreau, Juliette Morel, Constantiina Mihailidou, Constantina Teodorou, Laura Tirandaz.

Merci, au revoir Paris...