VANGELIS HATZIYANNIDIS’ THEATRE,
- Evi Prousali, Dr. Theatre Studies - Theatre Critic
The Game of “Reality”
It should be stressed from the very beginning that it is difficult to introduce an artist who is in his mature period, because his career is ongoing, which means that a lot more is to follow until the completion of his artistic work and the end of his life. In the case of Vangelis Hatziyannidis there already exists a corpus of seven plays, most of which have been staged. It is, therefore, appropriate to attempt a brief and rough description of his dramaturgy.
Hatziyannidis’ work could be characterized as a dramaturgy of "reality" without, however, being completely in line with the aesthetic movement of realism. His is a forged realism, in the sense that it is based on a realistic axis but is also characterized by a deviation and divergence from its standard expression. In particular, in Hatziyannidis’ dramaturgy we identify: his drawing upon myths from the "perceived" reality (all his plays relate to actual situations), the presentation of everyday and anti-heroic dramatic personae, and the attempt to interpret the shaping and actions of his characters through his well-established psychoanalytic approach. His writing is equally realistic; his dramatic discourse makes the most of its communicative power, his language style is simple, minimal and direct, on occasion sententious– without, however, being pretentious – with intense bursts of insightful humor and sarcasm. The narrative frame of his plays is well-structured, with interlocutory synapses and monologic utterances which carefully unreel the myth’s development and manipulate every textual detail until the final climax; elements that constitute an undeniable inclusion in the vicinity of realism.
The deviation that we observe in Hatziyannidis’ playwrighting regarding the imperatives of the realistic movement is mostly traced in the lack of any socio-political parameter as a dominant component for the configuration of situations and personalities. However, this probably is a deliberate omission, since the author's interest mostly lies in personal and private human relationships, which he designates as major. Thereby, almost all the dramatic personae in his plays display specific characterological attributes, which are largely obtained - as action or reaction - through their harrowing interpersonal relationships. Indeed, the majority of his characters (Masquerade, Mud, La Poupee, Cake) "deny" themselves - to the extent that they are self-aware - by adopting a façade, beneath which lurk the unacknowledged fears, their insecurities and their complexes. “The others" always have negative connotations for the protagonists: something aggravating - "a waste of time." (Masquerade), a threat - "arrows of hatred. Everywhere." (La Poupee), aversions - "I don't want anything from them. I loathe them." (Mud), indifference or lack of confidence -"there are situations where you cannot count on the compassion of others, it has disappeared. It is horrible." (Wind), rivalry – “You, the superiors, need us. This is the only way your superiority shines. […] because we exist, us, who are not rare." (Cake) etc. At the same time, however, self-knowledge penetrates all the characters of his plays as the dominant request.
On the other hand, Hatziyannidis’ playwrighting breaks away from the tightness of the realistic movement, thanks to a diversification that perfects it. His dramatic worlds open cracks in "objective" reality, permitting - "imperceptibly", yet sufficiently – rays of “another” world, one which coexists with the real, to pass through; this is something that we don’t see in purely realistic texts. His characters listen to “the voices" of inanimate beings (La Poupee), believe that are visited by the dead (Masquerade, Wind), fight with the ghosts of the past (Mud), foretell and sense what is to come (Screen Light) and illustrate the traces of the "soul" (Your Intangible Self). This is a unearthly realism that intrudes in the portrayal of events and differentiates them from the analytical and scientific approach, rendering them "phenomena" of a latent "reality".
Meanwhile, simple and familiar situations are imbued with the aura of an obscure "transcendence", which pulls the strings: "I don't believe in coincidence […] I was destined to get this property. I believe in fate" (Masquerade); "There is, however, a burden. Of your old lives "(Mud); "When you exceed your limits, the favors you ask are granted"(Screen Light); "The cube of illusions" (Your Intangible Self). Thus, the link between cause and effect is broken, and the writing departs from pure realism. The concept of the "real" is enriched with multiple and diverse versions, beyond and outside the horizon of realistic imaging, which also extends to interrelated levels of subjective experiences. Unconscious, subconscious, dream and illusion create an impenetrable grid of possibilities in which, eventually, the audience gets mentally involved.
It is exactly at this point where one traces the elements of enigma, mystery and - on occasion - thriller, with which the plays of V. Hatziyannidis are instilled. The atmosphere of his dramas, seemingly calm, always carries a subtle threat, an unknown parameter, an aspect well hidden until the end; the veil falls, at times to uncover (Masquerade, La Poupee, Cake) and others to leave the doubt hang (Mud, Wind, Screen Light, Your Intangible Self).
While browsing the human geography of Hatziyannidis’ dramatic texts, we come across characters that display odd and eerie behavior (Masquerade, Mud, La Poupee, Wind, Screen Light, Your Intangible Self). Some of them agonize over the awareness that their expectations will not be met and are tormented by their guilt (Masquerade, Mud), while others are unable to become integrated into their social environment (La Poupee, Wind). Some aspects of the characters’ behavior are partly justified, while others often remain unfounded. Although seemingly transparent, certain dramatic personages resemble the haze figures created by Tennessee Williams.
The dialogue - or monologue – is often interspersed with substantial reflection, fully imbedded in the speech flow of the characters, which attributes scope and width to the text. The absence of social commentary, however, prevents the disclosure of the dialectal relationships and the environmental influence on the individual, thus narrowing the scope of the transpiring situations. This constitutes, perhaps, the blind spot of Hatziyannidis’ playwrighting.
The titles of his plays are carefully selected in order to prefigure, pre-signal and ultimately foretell the dramatic stakes. It is interesting that full disclosure only occurs shortly before the play’s end, something that keeps the audience in anticipation. The title’s words are – almost always – uttered as the curtain falls.
To conclude, the interesting plot, the psychoanalytic account of human beings and relationships, the flowing, unpretentious dialogue or monologue coupled with a palimpsest of images and situations that pertain to both objective and subjective reality, integrate the plays of Vangelis Hatziyannidis to a realism that is not confined in the constricting limits of the description of a tangible reality. It is a realism that exceeds this stereotypical treatment, allowing room for the ineffable. Despite the fact that the texts fall into the realistic narrative, they stand out because they play with their subject, the "real", which they broaden without distorting. This is the game of "reality", in which the man/observer/author defines and specifies both terms – the game as well as the real – since, as quantum mechanics argue nowadays, the conscious, subjective human experience turns into the leader of its own deeds.
[Translation: Elena Delliou]