EVDOKIMOS TSOLAKIDIS' THEATRE,
- Janna Tsokou, Dramaturg - Theatre Critic
[Translation Elena Delliou]
Actor, director, acting teacher with many years of experience and creator of the Theater of Changes, the versatile Evdokimos Tsolakidis emerged in Greek dramaturgy with two imaginative plays. Athens-Moscow (2001) could be the modern sequel of Three Sisters, where Tsolakidis explores the complex relationships between women from Russia who live in Athens as economic immigrants. In the one-act play Nothing (2004) the author selects the theatrical practice itself as his theme and ponders over the essence of art. A common weft connects these two apparently dissimilar plays: Chekhov. The Russian dramatist’s influence in Athens-Moscow is evident, while in Nothing there exists a suggestive reference. Chekhov may well be the starting point and inspiration but Tsolakidis, as expected, follows his own path. In Athens – Moscow the author creates his own modern heroes who are faced with the current Greek and Russian reality, while in Nothing they are imprisoned in a closed theatrical universe. Tsolakidis’ works have been staged both in Greece and abroad. Athens-Moscow was produced by the "Deus Ex Machina" Theatre group and the Municipal Theatre in Kozani, and was also staged in Zurich, Hamburg, Bucharest, and Tehran. Nothing was staged in Zürich, Izmir, Istanbul, and Tehran.
“If only we knew, if we knew just why we live, why we suffer ...!” wonders Olga as the curtain falls in Chekhov’s Three Sisters. A hundred years later Olga is still suffering, but as an economic immigrant in Athens she now has no time to ponder over life and the meaning of existence. She must – and does – survive. Olga, Masha and Irina’s family narrative continues in Evdokimos Tsolakidis’ Athens-Moscow. We are now in the twenty-first century; the Greek capital is getting ready for the Olympics, is home to a very high number of illegal immigrants, and places its faith in the stock market.
With sensitivity and humor, Tsolakidis presents us with the agonizing world of three women; the difficulty of survival, the alienation and desperate situation of people who seek a second chance in the South, having left a decadent Russia behind. The isolation of the minority is symbolized in the play through Olga’s sad, small apartment in Kalliroy’s street; the place where the eight scenes of the play take place. The three women meet here after a long period of time, following Irina’s sudden arrival from Russia. Olga and Massa have grown cold to each other because of Yuri, lover of first Massa and then Olga. The outside world is represented through the intense presence of men, evident through the vast number of phone calls they receive from their fellow countrymen, whether they concern love affairs or business. Lovers who strive to return, new lovers, bosses who fire people via the telephone, partners who arrange strange appointments in the middle of the night. In the adjacent apartment a young man is constantly playing drums, and in the course of the play attempts to commit suicide. The only one that appears to have a – rather metaphysical – relationship with the new Greek neighbour is the younger sister, Irina. The mystical atmosphere that the author creates leads us to believe that the protagonists operate on the edge of legality, something that is overturned in the end. The women's relationships become even more entangled because of the suspicion that Natasha, their brother's widow, creates among them. As in Chekhov, their tame brother's bourgeois wife will try to dominate over them, thus dissolving the family’s cohesion.
A “neorealistic” comedy of errors, Athens-Moscow allows the tragic to be expressed through details that make up the protagonists’ reality. The delicate Masha cleans houses but is allergic to detergents and constantly resorts to pills; the resourceful, nervous Olga collaborates with crooks and earns a considerable amount of money in the stock market; the restless Irina appears dressed as a nun, but without being certain about the path she has chosen to take. The core of the play is the relationships between the three women, which go through several fluctuations until the sisters decide to confess to each other how they really feel. Moscow still remains the perfect destination: the city where everything will be different. Will our protagonists eventually manage to rekindle their relationship and continue their lives together, or will each one take a different path? Hope comes in the face of Irina, who decides to live her own life and become financially independent. Will the modern-day Moscow become the place where dreams become a reality?
A play with fast action, realistic dialogues and alternations between the comic and the emotional, Athens-Moscow offers us three rich female roles and demands its own special place in modern Greek repertoire.
In Yasmin Reza’s Art, three men discuss and disagree over the essence of art; a conversation triggered by a white painting that for some it is an artistic “nothing.” In Tsolakidis’ play Nothing, theatre people are confronted for quite a long time with the naked scene, with the dramatic "nothing". In the play, a disagreement also breaks out regarding what an artistic work ultimately is, and how subjective the reception of the theatrical action is. The participants themselves will inadvertently create the main body of the show. But who is watching who?
How intense should silence be so as to completely replace the dialogue? So that a pause won’t constitute a dead point in the show’s body? In this original one-act play with the characteristic title Nothing, Evdokimos Tsolakidis places a theater critic, a spectator, a theatrical entrepreneur and a police officer on an empty stage, where all that happens is a long pause. How will those involved react to the scenic "nothing?" The menacing silence concerns the spectator who starts complaining, while the critic treats her arrogantly, believing she is participating in a special artistic event. The conflict that will erupt between the two women will bring on stage the theatrical entrepreneur and a female police officer. The women will soon reveal intimate emotions – like the despair of the woman who was recently cheated on by her spouse, or the critic’s feeling of loneliness attributed to the lack of a love life. But the policewoman also hides her own secret; a graduate of the drama school, the young woman was unable to become part of the professional theatre, despite the many auditions in which she took part. And one of them was in this very theatre. Now, circumstances have her acting on stage Nina's monologue from Chekhov’s Seagull, in an attempt to prove to the others that she is actually a good actress. This, however, will be the officer’s first and last role, as the entrepreneur shoots her while she is acting. A little later, he kills the female spectator in the same way. The gun remains at the center of the stage while the “action-pause” continues with the two people remaining; the critic and the entrepreneur. Is the end predetermined?
Is theatre ailing? Is it killed by mediocrity? From the arrogant critic and the melodramatic actress to the ignorant spectator and the dark figure of the theatre entrepreneur, Tsolakidis creates an enclosed environment reminiscent of Sartre’s Behind Closed Doors. The interaction between people who are unable to communicate leads not to creation but to death. In Nothing, through the Kafkaesque atmosphere that he creates, Tsolakidis talks about the nature and the extremes of theatre, as well as the pull that the transition from reality to illusion exerts. Meanwhile, the playwright satirizes the power relations that the theatrical establishment creates; at that moment theatre becomes a dangerous, absurd game.