ANDREAS KOUKIDIS' THEATRE,
- Polikarpos Polikarpou, Dramaturg
Andreas Koukidis or Theatre as an Awareness of the Motherland
Translation: Elina Palaska
In the memory of Thanos Petemeridis
It is indeed daring to talk about a living creator, whose work is still in progress and he himself is living the historical times of his place in all its’ aspects. Nonetheless, I shall venture an attempt to testify a rich authorial work, with a broad spectrum of genre and an interesting style.
Andreas Koukidis’ dramaturgy is but an awareness of the motherland. It is s tour, a procession, a wandering, with respect and mental anguish, in the blessed and the holy of the Cypriot land, the history and the sense of life.
In Cyprus, as in Greece, the exact same underground paths are at work, so much in life, as in history. The historical paradox of the consanguineous is that, while they espouse modernity, they live and prosper under pre-modern values. Here, what is dominant is the law of the blood, kinship, family, “groomsmanship”, customer relationships with the local congressman, and the political system in general. The Greeks (from Greece or Cyprus, it does not matter) never fully apprehended the meaning of central state. The never abdicated the local authorities for the sake of the central authorities of the state.
Andreas Koukidis presents this very side of the Cypriot life, he critiques, satirizes, and with plenty of love and tenderness, which at sometimes approaches the limits of pure poetry, is saddened and exasperated. Being living cell of the society in which he lives, he creates directly and instantaneously, diving, most of the times, in his personal experiences. Such a direct and breathing dramaturgy cannot help but be deeply and profoundly connected with the unconscious forces of life, which create human history.
The periodization of the work of a living author is inopportune; genre classification is, however, attainable and possible. Koukidis sails around the darling shores of comedy, in all its’ known variations (satire, farce, parody), but also dares to sail the open sea and in the glorious depths of drama, using the same stability in writing, structure of the plot and figuration of his characters.
When we talk about Cyprian dramatists, it is appropriate to start from the language. All Cyprians are functionally bilinguals. They speak and write the Cypriot dialect and Modern Greek. Dialectal writing in a linguistic community which uses formally another, aside for the dialect, language, is usually employed to salvage a way of life, endangered by the linguistic or cultural pressure of the formal centre.
The play which has established Andreas Koukidis as a playwright, and even a first class one, is the now emblematic Lidras and Rigenis. The plot is set at the edge of the city, where elements that are as diverse and mismatched as the bought pandemic love and the heavenly love of the pure souls, are conflicted and merged. Solicitation, soldiers, police officers, margin, law and unlawfulness, all mixed together in a melting and destructive furnace. And, down deep, the historical fate is plotting its’ own drama: conspiracy, coup, and invasion. With the language of the dialect tuned in the tunes of a three-dimensional realism, musical and poetic at the same time, the play takes off and surpasses the great moments of the Cypriot dialectal (and not only dialectal) theatre.
Two elements are dominant in this magnificent play, which may arise in absentia of the playwright’s intentions: the dramatic function of the dialect and the relation of history with people. The dialect is not ethnographic, as in the “Cypriot sketches” or the plays of the other, otherwise very respected, Cyprian ethnographers; it promotes an authentic dramatic weight with tensions climaxing into conflicts in the level of spirit and consciousness. The people of this sunless margin become objects and subjects of history, holding the same portions in actions and omissions, thusly de-transnaturalizing the historical time, which flows inline from the past to the present, and from there to the future, using genuinely realistic, everyday and tangible terms. The way in which time functions within the play, is exactly what makes it automatically deeply and honestly political, as its prevailing meaning is now purely humanistic.
In The Birds by Aristophanes, he denounces political favors and micropolitics. Aristophanes makes promises to everyone, feeds everyone, yet he cannot earn enough for his house or neighborhood. And when everyone and everything abandon him, he, like“Mother Courage”, without being taught or having learned anything, walks on, relentless and unrepentant. It is an elegant play, which was lifted up by the unique performance of the dearly departed Thanos Petemeridis.
The Birds is followed by a series of plays, from 1997 until today, which flow effortlessly and gracefully within the genre of satire and farce, and which never fall short of social and sometimes political critique.
Mayor Karagiozis, Spaghetti Kleftiko, Foreigners and Topakes, The Wedding’s Envelopes, Nikolas’ Galines, Co-mother-in-law and Co-mother-in-law (one in the Cypriot dialect, one in Modern Greek), Health Plan, Giaouritsa, are plays where the alienation of the traditional Cypriot life by the invasion of foreign elements is projected, in a critical manner. Furthermore, the personal and interpersonal relationships of the people (spouses, neighbors, best men, parents, children), the gentle and harmless margin of life in the village (petty thieves, gamblers, men hanging all day and night in forgotten coffeehouses), the traumatic relationships between the citizens, the state and its enforcers. Dialect functions as the keeper of this life, in these cases.
Andreas Koukidis also pays tribute to his ancient fellow-playwright, Aristophanes, with his plays Lisimachi and Eksousiazusae.
“It is with a deep fear of God that I touch upon our dead”, Koukidis writes, prefacing The Last Moon. An indeed, this devout and consolatory play resembles a divine service. It is a solid structured play, devoid of bombasts and idle rhetoric, which often underlie these themes. It is a de profundis tribute to the dead of the liberating struggle. In The Five Mile the great trauma of the missing prevails, while the Phaneromenis Leontios is a composition based on a faint piece of information, which speaks of the participation and the passions of the Cyprians in the revolution of 1821.
I would like to mention his unperformed plays, in an unconventional manner. The Rain’s Water is a piece of his life. It speaks of his relationship with his wife Stella. Anthilia is a personal opinion on the fairytale of Cinderella. The Crickets and Premeditated are studies on the drama of human relationships and frustrated expectations.
Having written many plays, having been performed many times by professionals and amateurs alike, being full of avidity, a good father, an even better grandfather, a giving friend, filled with deep respect, great love for the traditional culture of his native land, Andreas Koukidis lives and creates in the land where he was born, employing at times laughter, at times badinage, at times dramatic introspection, attempting to replace the historical drama with a charming, yet profound, humanistic sense of living.
 In Modern Greek area, especially in the islands, there is an interesting dialectal dramaturgy. Dialectal theatrical plays are written and performed by local amateurs in Lesvos, Simi, Samos and Crete. However, the only dialectal dramaturgies that are encountered by the current professional theatre are the Pontiac and the Cypriot.
 About the de-transnaturalization of the historical Cypriot trauma, see the review for the performance and the play by Nona Moleski, Fileleftheros, February 14, 1994.