LENA KITSOPOULOU’S THEATRE,
- Grigoris Ioannidis, Assistant Professor, Theatre Studies Department, University of Athens
Is she really the most important "angry" playwright of her generation, an original representative of the Greek "in-your-face" dramaturgy? Up to now, those who took on the shortcomings, unmasked and decried the falsehood, caught the dangling limps and denounced fraud are not few. Personally, however, I know of no other besides her, who recently achieved it with such success, such delicacy and such nerve. In her hands, theatre is but the tool of her rebellious tenderness, steam from the vaporization of repressed emotions, that pops the top of the bottle.
Kitsopoulou's theatre is set off by a very simple truth. That it must survive. It must be seen by the living. It must, for this reason, remain playful and unbound. It must object to the pomposity of "diligent work," to the profundity of the "literary mission," to the unexpressed "heroism of writing." To be not just the text, but its Transgression.
Firstly the transgression of the pompous literary, consistent and sacred rule. With Kitsopoulou we are undoubtedly within the realm of the anti-literary theatre. It is a theatre that gives birth to the text, and not vice-versa. And it is a theatre that absorbs reality and offers it back, purified from habit and familiarity, burnished and sharp, queer and unbecoming, as it should be.
And then, transgression of the sacred and blessed of national identity, the triptych "Fatherland, Religion, Family." Upon this triptych, the greatest part of our education was built, the mentality and culture of the Greek nation. This is where her sharp satire is aimed: In the grotesque writing of "The Price" and in "N-euro-se 2" the Greek family is in the centre, the Greek family that considers parenting a part of social distinction. In " Aoustras or the Hardness" a group of ignorant, unlettered youngsters are targeted, who will jump their guest just to prove their aboriginal "superiority." Much more edited in its structure, "Athanasios Diakos - The Return" undertakes the comparison of the heroic Greek past to the degenerative use of national specificity. And "M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A" is the plangent monologue of a woman who is incapable of living her pointless, defined by others and predefined life.
Kitsopoulou's manner of writing is not conciliatory. It is polemic. Her theatre pertains to post-modernism. Only one thing needs to be cleared: Kitsopoulou is not post-modern by respect. She is post-modern by origin. As a Greek of her generation, she reports the irrational, flaky, yet existent reality of her country, a social, ethical and political situation which allows the unexpected alternation of facts, the annihilation of the high into the humble, the rationalization of the kitsch, the beautification of the national delirium and massive stupefaction.
Even in her other theatrical works, as far as directing or dramatization of her stories is concerned, Kitsopoulou presents the same, more or less, ambition. It is her direction in "Chere Nimphi" that causes a stir, when she reveals hidden sexual repressed emotions of the middle class dramaturgy. And "Mounis" shocks as it features domestic and societal perversions, which are exalted in closed Greek societies.
Is there a common denominator in all these plays? Yes. The presence of violence. Violence within the family and within our upbringing, violence within the prototypes after which the Greek nation formed its ideological status. Sometimes in the form of duress, sometimes in the form of heroic symbols, the neo-Greek moral sense has been corrupted by an invisible, implicit, unconscious violence.
This is the first, obvious part of her work. For the more sensitive members of the audience, however, there is one more, a hidden one. It is a grievance over our national or collectivist identity no more, but over our own existence. Are we so ignorant of our deepest sensitivity? Are we doomed to serve, always, something else, someone other than the one who would offer us dignity, joy, and freedom? Kitsopoulou therefore, does not only object against the lie. She stands for every truth. Natural life, freedom, self-determination. She herself loves Rempetiko and lives the freedom of an existentialist. Through her actions and her works, she reveals the will that seeks to become creation and action, free from bounds and dictates. I reckon it is this will that will find the roots, beyond the pests and carcinogenesis, something brisk and lyrical, something that moves and lives genuinely. Maybe this is the reason why Kitsopoulou so often turns to the folk song and to verse. They are her breaths of oxygen near the muddy bed...
The Greek theatre and state have been awarded with a writer and an image: "Apolitical," as long as she does not express any meta-political ideology. "Unfaithful," as long as faith is not accompanied by subjection and integration. "Angry," as long as anger gives birth to creation. It is a fact that Kitsopoulou remains "honest," as long as she does not hide behind facades, as long as she insists on thinking freely and unconcealed.
Lena Kitsopoulou is undoubtedly talented. She is honest. And she is still young. We have every reason to look forward to.
[Translation: Artemis Palaska]