YIORGOS DIALEGMENOS' THEATRE,
- Irene Mountraki, Dramaturg - Theatre critic
[Translation: Elena Delliou]
Yiorgos Dialegmenos’ theatre is an individual’s attempt to communication. An attempt to life. Every one of his plays is open to readings and interpretations. The world he describes exists within and around him, and his heroes have a locale, an identity, a past, and a variety of experiences. His writing gives the impression that it flows automatically and effortlessly onto the paper, free of any kind of literary ploys, attempts to impress, and supposedly deep meanings. This authenticity and raw intellect become his vehicles for truth; for an actual partaking and true emotion through the adventure that is life. It is through this adventure that a theatre of authenticity is born in Dialegmenos’ pages.
His components are drawn from the everyday life and his heroes are integrated in a perfectly real reality; they are part of an existing and unpretentious part of the world, people of our familiar routine, next-door individuals. However, the author cleverly avoids the traps of ethnography; he works on the finest weaves of the human soul and – with a bitter sarcasm and a heretical mood – proceeds to the creation of psychological portraits. Anyone who takes a close look at his heroes can realise that they have a certain quality; they are not failed, foolish, desperate or daydreamers. They are people that have found themselves on the margins of life, each one for different reasons. Folk types; unemployed; an elderly, forgotten actress and her decadent environment; crooks; homeless scavengers; parents of a child with special needs; idealists: these are all people who have led a difficult life, and who the author meets at a breaking point; when an "opportunity" comes forward. This opportunity may come in the form of a role or a trade, of the appropriate time for a longed-for reconciliation, of a pension or a journey, of the unexpected birth of a baby; it can even come in the form of a death.
Since We Lost our Aunt. Stop., essentially his first play, one can detect a sharp look and a wisely-calculated dose of tragicomedy: a couple lives in the misery and whining that poverty brings. In the next room lies their dying, bedridden aunt, in whose inheritance they have placed all their hopes. A fight and one wrong move precipitate her death – one, however, that does not bring the desired solution, but becomes the spark for the big bang.
In Mommy, Mother, Mom the solution that the two brothers and their wives are dreaming – the "placement" of their mother in a nursing home and their subsequent move to the apartments they will get in exchange for giving their land – is not the gateway to a "better" life. Getting the mother-tyrant out of the picture is presented as a prerequisite for the younger generation’s empowerment and acquisition of living space. Once the cornerstone of the Greek family, the mother has now become an unbearable burden. However, once they are released from her grip, the collapse of the signifying – up to that point – system of values leaves them behind vulnerable, weak and exhausted.
In the nightmarish I Kiss Your Face, Mitsos and Candy are striving to make a living as scavengers, placing false hopes in help from outside; the Minister, Fotis, the cop-son. Their personal story, the story of a prostitute’s attempted murder, and the one of the son and his mentally disturbed mother, all get intertwined in a surreal landscape and come to the same point: life will always go on.
The extremely interesting thing is that almost all his heroes are Aware; they are aware of the difficulties and few possibilities of success, but never hesitate to make an attempt. Bracing themselves for battle, they rush into it as true warriors. Although they are concerned with achieving their objectives, the contention is a trophy in itself; failure does not defeat them. This playwright’s Heroes are ones whose stamina is tested; the question is how long they will endure, and it is this feature that makes them special, tempers and exalts them. Precisely because he is honest with his heroes, the creator is also allowed to be raw.
In The Night of the Owl, Dialegmenos clearly moves towards surrealism and writes a play with a poetic atmosphere. A middle-aged man working at a cemetery’s department of lost bones dies after an intense professional phone call. During his passage from one world to another, he is confronted with a former lover (a complicated extra-marital affair) that had committed suicide decades earlier, unable to bear his betrayal. Vengeance awaits him in the next life, since everything conforms to the rule of continuity; one that always declares life as the winner.
In Don't Listen to the Rain, a young couple’s life and relationship is worn out after the woman gives birth to a child with special needs. The struggle for the continuation of life and the preservation of hope is eternal. Fate and life work together, imposing their authority on the hero: man has to live with dignity, and face whatever life has in store with grace. While in this play the tragic derives from the existence of the child, in Because of the Face it emerges from the grid of relations, the gradual and systematic penetration of one world into the other and the disintegration that this brings. A long-forgotten actress lives with her sister – that follows her around like a shadow – and her retarded brother, in their family home. A young director’s phone call and job offer for a TV commercial will put the sisters back in the game; alas, they will choose the wrong playmates.
Bella Venezia is the culmination of Dialegmenos’ evolution as a playwright; it is the lyrical and tragic expression of the agony of human existence. With a peculiar love triangle (mother-daughter-stepfather) as the starting point, the writer presents the human relations as a perilous, seductive and risky game. The "players" are led to a series of actions whose sole purpose is not the players’ outright victory, but their survival. Their own home turns into a fathomless abyss that leads them to total destruction. As the heroes attempt to find the balance between the desired and that which is dictated by the status quo, they get trapped in an unfulfilling reality, ruthlessly destroying each other in order to confirm their existence.
Dialegmenos’ plays reveal the tragedy of truth and the dangers that lurk when it hides behind devices and calculated silences.