To Marios, an exceptional person I met in Cyprus, a man who instantly won our friendship, I dedicate this text together with my absolute gratitude … Thank you!
One of the relevant features of the theatre’s language is universality – this is the assumption with which I choose to introduce my following thoughts. Wherever you are, on any meridian you travel, meeting the theatre’scene or a group of talented actors – regardless of their nationality – is an extraordinary experience which is able to give you a suite of inner states, emotions and intense feelings almost impossible to describe. Moreover, regardless the linguistic universe where the artistic message is delivered, it succeeds somehow to provoke you, to enlighten you, to give you a great amount of excitement, far beyond the limitations of the communication system (or your native tongue). You have the chance to experience, in such a context, feelings of intensity similar to the atmosphere charged with electricity before the outbreak of a storm.
My dear reader, I want to talk to you about an unusual event, as far as I can translate it into the right words, and at the same time, as long as you are willing to give me some of your precious time. Watching a theatrical show in a Roman amphitheater (whose beginning is lost in the darkness of the first century B.C.) is not a common event at all, one occurrence meant to easily disappear into the corridors of memory. Especially when the play is called ”Orestes” and it is written by one of the fathers of the Greek tragedy, Euripides. Staged by a group of actors in Greece under the direction of Yannis Anastasakis, the show tends to give theatrical experience a new and surprising meaning, largely due to the context in which it unfolds. Let me explain this… Imagine yourself on a rocky plateau lying a hundred meters above the sea level. You are on a hillside mercilessly crammed by the warmth of the day that has just passed, in a place full of invaluable vestiges that testify about the glory of a city- kingdom from antiquity. You are at ”Kourion” (latin, ”Curium”) in one of the archaeological wonders of Cyprus, and you are preparing to take part in the drama of young Orestes, the prototype of struggle that characterizes the human condition. Son of Agamemnon and Clitemnestra, Orestes embraces the tumultuous character torn between implacable destiny and the lawless will of the gods.
Set on one of the steps of the circular shape of the amphitheater, I am eagerly waiting for the play to start, filled with both a delight and a childhood curiosity that is hard to conceal. From time to time, as the steps of the amphitheater are filled with people, I scrutinize the surroundings and I feel, at some distance, the fury of the sea, a personal suspicion confirmed by the cool breeze that comforts my cheeks. Closer to me, the walls, the mosaics, the porticoes and the columns of Kourion are resting in the darkness that embraces the surroundings tenderly. Impressions of a glorious history, the archaeological miracles invite me to discover the lives of people of the past, their needs, their excitement, their joys and their dramas. In such moments I feel connected to the spirit of another age, becoming myself a part of an fascinating ”Zeitgeist”. I even dare to give a summary judgment of value (inspired by my friend Marios): probably people who once lived in these places had fewer things compared to those we have today. But I am tempted to think that they enjoyed more and more happily everything that life gave them. Instead, a significant part of the people of today’s civilization have a wealth of goods, often forgetting to enjoy what they have or, worse, no longer enjoying anything. The ruins of a once-blooming kingdom are coming to life, a living testimony about what remains from all of our human ambitions and passions: nothing… because, at the end, everything is abandonment and despair…
I’m turning to the present: although there are still a few minutes before the play, a woman in a night-color dress walks to the scene from one side of the other. She stops, waits, scrutinizes distances, then resumes his itinerary. Close to the middle of the scene there is a camp bed, and, under bed clothes, you spot the shapes of a human body. The actress approaches from time to time on the bed, leans over him with careful gestures, touches the body, freeze for a while, then rises and goes to the edge of the stage. She stops there, and fixes the surroundings … afterwards she returns, and repeats the movements, as an incomprehensible ritual … It’s Electra, and the body hidden beyond that white sheet is Orestes, her brother.
After the usual message to the audience, over the spectators lay the darkness, the reflector lights now focus only on the scene, and the show begins … Looking to the black sky, with a firm tone, saying words in the most beautiful Greek language ever given me to hear, Electra invokes the gods, addresses to them a kind of imprecation in which she complains to the inhabitants of Olympus about the cruelty, the cynical game in which they transform the lives of the poor mortals. My heart beats faster, my body begins to shiver, as the atmosphere is fueled with waves of emotions that includes sadness, helplessness, compassion, hate and rebellion. I am striving to distribute my attention between what’s happening on stage and the screen on which English subtitles are projected. But my attention is irremediably confiscated by the remarkable performance of the actors. Orestes rises from his bed, embraces his sister, addresses her words of warm consolation, then he defies Apollo without fear, blaming God of Light for causing him to commit murder. His athletic body then becomes the prey of a real convulsive fire. The Furies, the ruthless goddesses of the Inferno, torment him, devour him in the flames of remorse. He committed a murder, he killed his mother, Clitemnestra, to revenge his father… Acompanied by a stunning musical crescendo, twelve women sing, dance, easily gain admiration of the audience with their amazing performance. The play of lights, the delusional sequence of sounds, the exotic sound of the Greek language, the choreography of the twelve faces that instantiate the choir, everything on that stage conspires to amplify my emotions andf bring them to the paroxysm. I do not feel like a mere spectator, neither a passive receiver, obstructed by the lack of knowledge of Greek language. On the contrary, I feel that I become part of the show, my thoughts and feelings are contemporary with the troubles of Orestes and his sister Electra. Two young tragically beautiful, human-toys in the ruthless hand of destiny, seeking hopelessly deliverance. My psycho-analytical projection mechanism works perfect: I find myself in their struggle, with their help I recollect, in a katharsis saga, parts of my own childhood… I forget to watch the subtitles on the screen, because I am subjugated by the characters’ dialogue, by the amplifying actions, by the the Greek linguistic musicality, by the characters of this exceptional show. The show goes further, and the tensions grow, the lives of protagonists unfold before my eyes as a succession of unpredictable movements. Everything looks to me like a painting which contains – beyond lights, shadows, and artificially produced mists – rhetorical questions about destiny, and lots of enriched-wisdom words: ”consciousness is a flame which illuminates the heart”; ”the most beautiful union is that of power and justice”; ”no mortal passes through life without being touched by the wrath of the gods”; ”the god only helps the one who strives”, and many others. I feel more and more intensely the drama of the situations that the protagonists cross: insanity, mercy is replaced by the wild desire for vengeance, because ”blood comes after blood”, ”abyssus abyssum invocat”. The seduction of violent chaos is too strong to be soothed by the voice of reason, the fruits of revenge are sweet and scented like ”Commandaria” wine. Until Orestes, helped by his friend Phylades, decides to kill Elena and her daughter Hermione, to take revenge on his uncle Menelaos, who refused to escape the punishment of the crowd. The end of the play is under the sign of the Apollo god, de facto embodied in the voice of an actor behind the spectators. The words of the god embody the redeemer voice of consciousness, or the power of reason, God is ”deus ex machina” and He is meant to put things in their natural order, to transform the terrible chaos into a cosmos, or in other words, to change the disorder in a much desired order.
I offer you, with sincere sympathy, my dear reader, the joy and also the privilege of giving me a feedback, that means possible thoughts with a conclusive status, for which I thank you in advance. I am also grateful to you, for your patience of being part of a glamorous theatre experience, even indirectly, through these humble lines.