YIANNIS MAVRITSAKIS' THEATRE,
- Georgina Kakoudaki, Dramaturg
"I love life very much, but this does not mean that I do not see the reality. Our very nature, our making, compels us to carry on, to cherish even that which we loathe. " Y.M
Yiannis Mavritsakis’ plays have caused a sensation wherever and however they have been staged. Whether launching his career in this one or a foreign country, as part of major or lesser festivals, with large or small troupes and new or acclaimed actors, his works remain solid and always have a message to convey. The combination of Greek poetic language and a solid dramatic structure from such a connoisseur of theatrical communication render Mavritsakis’ works a safe material for the theatre and every spectator; they are works that appear unable to fail when staged.
Yiannis Mavritsakis started writing plays after a long career as a leading actor in the theatre. Without being consumed in the commercial side of show business, he worked with freestanding directors and was fortunate enough to play important parts in works by Brecht, Wedekind and Shakespeare, ancient tragic poets and contemporary writers like B.M. Koltès. These structural and ideological affinities are ever present in works that convey free thinking, expression and form, and constantly flirt with issues of paramount importance, as all the great works in the history of the theatre do.
The playwright presents what he knows in his heart to be true. The inspiration may be the loss that results from a death as in The Blind Spot (2006), the impossibility of love as in Wolfgang (2007), the aversion towards society as in Fucking Job (2008), the denial of life as in Vitrioli (2010), or the hope for world destruction as in the Redshift (2012). Through his work, the playwright creates a stage game, reveals every injustice in the world, and adopts a deeply political, irreversible, apocalyptic stance.
The protagonists of his plays are people under observation; they are all different from each other and - most importantly - from the author himself, enabling him to keep a critical distance from the subjects of his research; bank employees, small-time crooks, business secretaries, butchers, car mechanics, fast food workers, work supervisors and whichever profession serves the regimen. With no one paying much attention to who-does-what, these characters provide the author with a variety of arguments and various perspectives of viewing the world. Through these poetic beings of reality the playwright is allowed to reach the core of things, the desolate areas of emotions, thoughts and beings that nobody cares about, but they care about the world.
These unexplored souls are followed by others, with no descriptions about who they are and what is their role in the dark universe of reality that Mavritsakis creates for us. These archetypal roles - the mother, the gentleman, the therapist, the manager, the man, the woman, the neighbour – that exist a priori in the scheme of things, with their relationships with everything around them given and unbreakable, are the destroyers of diversity. In the recognizable - though illusory - appearance of things, surprising roles are added; these are usually teen parts or roles for eternal teenagers, people who need to take important decisions. The illusion that things are running smoothly collapses along with the image that people try their best when, in fact, they are the worst that our species has to show; these are the main characters of his works: all of them anti-heroes.
Niki in The Blind Spot, a bank employee, refuses to bond with another person over death. Consumed in a perpetual, cold, blinding mourning, she denies death as the permanent confirmation of loss in the blind spot of existence; our blind self that everyone but us can see.
Wolfgang, in the homonymous play [the play was inspired by an actual event in 2006: the 8-year abduction and detention of a ten-year old girl, from a 36 year-old Austrian], unable to deal with love, chooses the path of the lonely wolf, treating love as prey and saving for the future what he cannot yet taste... The end of love and his inability to handle it leads to the paradoxical realization that freedom begins upon the admission that love is a utopia, and the coming to terms with the idea of death and its obsessive denial.
The Assistant in Fucking Job seeks silence, which he perceives as the natural conclusion, as the end of noise. He refuses to participate in such a noisy, hectic world where the sickening human species will consume everything in order to secure its survival. The Assistant, the necessary mediator and contributor in the creation of the human sewer, is willing to offer even herself for consumption. Mass catering, greed, the submission of the other, the constant reminder of death - eating is actually associated with death rather than life - are for the Assistant the greatest evidence of our absolute mortality. The food is a cause and a source of death; it would be ideal to survive with air, with ideas, to move on to a higher form of life and finally stop being the vulgar version of man that kills in order to survive.
The boy in VITRIOLI ("Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem". V-I-T-R-I-O-L. "Visit the Earth’s interior, make amends and you will discover the hidden stone”) is a corrosive acid himself, and this is how we all perceive life. The boy - a teenager who doesn’t want to live in this world - slowly departs, makes himself absent, disappears, cuts himself off from reality, refuses food, work and interaction. Not wanting to become part of society he becomes death, he comes as death ...
A few years after the confined Fabien, who embodies the impetuous side of life but remains Wolfgang’s prisoner, youngsters have become experts in passive aggression; from Fabien’s “I wish you died” to her executioner, to the boy’s “I don’t care, whatever”, his last wish in Vitrioli.
In Redshift (a term of Astronomy: the proof of the universe’s constant expansion) the fragmentary dramatic characters formulate the general stance: the realization that the world is moving away from what we recognize as familiar and the expressed hope that this world will be destroyed; something will emerge and disintegrate everything, forcing us to – literally – eat our shit. Self-cannibalism will bring our demise and something new will emerge. Human beings are a parasite on this planet and man is not the Ark that can secure the future, but something that the universe must get rid of.
Pervasive in Mavritsakis is the belief that all of man’s illusions will eventually collapse; no matter how hard one tries to escape, the grim reality will surface. Upon this realisation, one can resist and allow the order to be disturbed, because only then can a new reality be formed. While this way of thinking may appear eschatological, it also implies a deep faith in human potential, a loving, affectionate look at humanity.
The playwright’s dramatic language creates an aesthetic satisfaction, thus increasing the distance that the spectator needs in order to observe the play’s development, work out an understanding beyond the theme and the style, and yield to the allure of the unregulated and free structure of the scenes; this appears to be the strongest point of his dramaturgy.
Yiannis Mavritsakis’ plays have been translated into many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, Romanian), have been presented as theatrical readings and also staged in Europe and America, earning distinctions and awards. More importantly, they always manage to deeply move the audience. But why do these plays affect spectators so much? Probably because - like the ancient tragedies – they deal with the end of things; the characters of his plays are at the end of their personal history, a time when they experience the consequences of their actions, the non-reversible side of things ... in other words, the grim reality of our days.
[Translation: Elena Delliou]