ΥIANNIS SOLDATOS' THEATRE,
Modernity and Fiction in Yiannis Soldatos' theatrical plays
Translation: Elina Palaska
During the second half of the twentieth century, and notably during the first decade of the twenty-first, the circle of playwrights thickens, thusly giving birth to new circles of theatre people and intellectuals who yearn to express themselves through playwriting. Even though the phenomenon of the increase of playwrights needs to be observed and clarified, it seems that it affects the art of theatre only in a a positive way. One of the intellectuals of our country is Yiannis Soldatos, who has already created important work, and is bound to create more in the years to come, not only through his plays, but through his spirited temperament that seems to only rest within the depths of art.
Soldatos has long-standing experience in the realm of literature and art, being a cinematographer, a publisher and a writer of many novels, History of the Greek Cinema included. During the last decade he has also entered the theatrical realm, writing plays and directing some of them.
Admiring, studying and poring into writers of universal and domestic literature-dramaturgy or artists of the visual arts, he is inspired by them, affected by them, he develops their words, he even uses them as characters is his plays. We are referring to the plays: When Alexandros Papadiamantis met Georgios Vizyenos, (1st title: The Consequences of Old History), When Skarimpas declared war against Chalkida, (1st title: Lobberangels), Saint Antonios Arto, Poe, and The Hopeless Lovestruck. Another category of his dramaturgy reflects upon religion from an earthly point of view: Holy Whore I, Holy Whore II and the one-act Mary, as is Holy Mary.
In When Alexandros Papadiamantis met Georgios Vizyenos the writer places the two scholars against one another. Both heroes ponder upon the past, use phrases from their work, driven by a dream-like, cloudy and gloomy atmosphere. Reality and fiction jumble, giving a more interesting breath to the plot and the ruling of the characters. The place of action is that of an asylum, where Vizyenos is committed and possessed by his obsessions for four years and is dying. In times of reflection and delirium the tragic state of the characters is surrounded by comic, even colorful and ridiculous elements, in a witty use of the language.
In When Skarimpas declared war against Chalkida Yiannis Skarimpas, the prose writer, playwright and poet who lived most of his life in Chalkida is in the centre of the plot. Soldatos soaks his play in surrealistic elements -used by Skarimpas- in a wartime and comic background. The tone is sometimes poetic, sometimes literary, sometimes folk, depending on the languages the heroes used before they became heroes in Soldatos' dramaturgy. Even the use of profanity takes on a sweet and cute dimension, as it is justified brilliantly, proving the skill of the writer.
In Poe Soldatos' knowledge of the writer Edgar Allan Poe is presented. It feels like the personality of the great belletrist comes to life through the words of the play. Poe also comes up against his literary personas, Eleonora, Morella, Morella's daughter, Ligeia, Ermengarde, Rowena. The hero trembles between reality and fiction, in an agonizing desperate attempt to find his truth, sometimes finding himself in an emotional outburst, where he recites his poems. Soldatos' structure leads to the spiritual catharsis of the hero.
In Saint Antonios Arto the technique of play-within-a-play is used; this time, however, it is not Antonios Arto who is the central hero, but there are references to him by the heroes who try to present a play. Love, religion, schizophrenia, debauchery, passion, extreme attitudes, all these things that Arto loves so much are channeled through the play, and also through the stage space. Soldatos, being the director, made sure he gave the suitable stage directions.
In The Hopeless Lovestruck another famous artists is in the middle of the plot, not from the realm of literature but from the realm of visual arts. Referring to Theofilos Kefalas-Chatzimichail, who created paintings based on Greek folklore, tradition and history. The playwright's playful mood create a conversation between two paintings, the "Hopeless Lovestruck" and the "Othoman women from the Nikomedia province of Constantinople". The painter is present listening, criticizing, sometimes trying to incorporate the changes that have been suggested by his creations in his life, sometimes rejecting the absurd ideas that are suggested, trying to imprison and subdue the three women. A helping hand is offered by the mermaid, Alexander the Great's sister, who is presented as a guardian angel, a leader. Yet again the surrealistic elements of the words offer color and tension, creating immaterial, dreamlike optical images to the spectator, and the stage props are not needed.
Holy Whore I includes three monologues of three prostitutes, the borderline behaviors, the sins, the passions, the addictions, the weaknesses of human nature, covering them with a veil of purification and holiness, given that in the end the heroines seek salvation and personal redemption from their sufferings. Twilight and lust dominate the credible and acute presentations of the characters. In Holy Whore II that is presented in two one-acts -one by Soldatos and the other by Effie Venianakis- religion and prostitution are intertwined, holiness and ethical purity with femininity, bringing about the purifying experience of motherhood.
With The Detective or The Harmful Consequences of Politics or What the Maid Saw or The Hidden Charms of Politics, the playwright breaks away from his usual themes, referring to modern matters. They are within the realm of comedy, where realism and satire prevail. Politics, special favors, intrigues, exchanges of views and roles of the modern human being as a result of the ever-changing conditions of life, surrounded by the heroes' self-sarcasm, all create a play of exponential rhythm.
The rest of his plays complete his theatrical canvas and remain unpublished, as they use the same witty wordplays, like the one-act Polikseni -meaning many-foreigners-, Massage -a word repeated throughout the play- or Apache Invasion a title with many symbolisms. Summing up, we realize once again through the titles of his unpublished plays: Iokaste, Electra, Frini, Andromache, Fiodor the Player, Eleni that the playwright remains faithful in his source of inspiration, i.e. the ancient Greek literature, emphasizing the female figures that hold the most important role in all his plays, bringing about the force of creation, rejuvenation, change, destruction ...