Seaweeds by Peny Fylaktaki,
- Irene Mountraki, Dramaturg - Theatre critic
Peny Fylaktaki is a playwright with a dynamic presence in the Greek theater over the past fifteen years. She holds a PhD in Theatre Translation and Cultural Studies, and she was founding member of an active avant-garde theatre group in Thessaloniki at the beginning of the 21st century. Fylaktaki started writing theater while being in this group, testing and being tested at the same time. Meanwhile, she attended several Creative Writing courses, among others in the U.K., and since 2001 she has been teaching Creative Writing and Literary Translation at the University. Her theatre activity includes original plays, adaptations of short stories, film adaptations, screenwriting as well as plays for children like the Greek version of Peppa Pig. She also demonstrates a remarkable work on literature translation.
The peculiarity of Fylaktakis' writing is reflected in the way she manages her subjects. She focuses on critical existential issues that affect the modern man without mercy: death, the family nucleus, the agony of being and also of coexisting, social structures, and gender relations. She likes to meet her heroes at critical points, on the limits, sometimes while in despair. However, she chooses to show us the facts from a slightly oblique perspective, a little bit "twisted" and always humorous, so as not to crush us but to create the illusion of relief or even hope. Fylaktaki, with exceptional skill, manages to minimize what’s important in order to make it seem smaller and therefore easier for the spectator to grasp. Then it will have the time to grow up inside him. Her dramaturgy in this paradoxical way works like a virus. It conquers the spectator silently, without warning. And then the spectator must stand before it; he has to face it. Our contemporary Greek reality – and not only Greek - is just there, facing us and provoking us in a caustic way. But not in order to shake the finger or to make us feel embarrassed about the way we have chosen to exist and live our lives, but on the contrary to motivate us to accept our reality so that we can proceed through this assumption.
Her first play, "So, what?" in 2002 focuses on the relationships of young people, their superficial connection, the need for personal contact as an antidote to the illnesses of our era: alienation and loneliness.
For her dark comedy The Championship she has been awarded the National Prize for New Playwrights 2004 by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. A man and a woman meet at a hotel room. Their goal is to catch in the red their spouses who are having an affair. An extreme and dramatic situation is transformed by the playwright into the cause of a loving clap. Dishonesty and lack of trust in human relations are treated with extraordinary humor and tenderness.
A remarkable play is also Greek History Lessons (2009), a penetrating look into social hypocrisy that can reach extreme, embarrassing for the humankind, points, while through The Building she tells the story of the adventure of human life.
With Like Father, Like Son in 2012 she deals with the bankruptcy and the restructuring of a nation struggling against its fate following the course of a bankrupt man, one who inherited his debts from his ancestors.
In My Wonderful Family (2013) she tackles her favorite subject, theater itself, and sets up a comedy about the financial and artistic anxieties of artists. In 2014, with Name and Grace, two families are struggling to the edge over the name of the baby.
Seaweeds is the playwright's most recent play, and has been distinguished in a major contest of the country. In this play Fylaktaki manages to penetrate even deeper into the problems of the modern family, the core of the social fabric. The death of the father forces his two children to return to their home island and their family house in order to claim the property their father has promised them in his Will, on the bizarre term that it will be given to the one who will invest it with the best possible way within 24 hours. A fortune that is not exactly defined is the driving force which makes them confront old truths they have buried in the past, their fears and passions, their remorse and guilt. Above all, however, they are confronted with their own selves: not only one against the other but mainly each one against himself. It is worth mentioning that this issue of disorientation through a Will is of great interest to the writer who had also dealt with it in 2004 adapting the short story of Demetris Hatzis "The Will" for the stage, in which again a death and a mysterious will upset and activate the life of a small provincial town.
Another interesting thing lays in the confrontation between the poet, the man who leads life beyond its boundaries, and the one who fights to keep himself within boundaries, to live a "regularity" and to win dignity through matter. And the playwright dares to crack them both, forcing them to move along. The heroes are in front of the sea (which may be the escape, the end or the life message that someone expects). Time runs through the dimensions of reality and surrealism, despite the fact that Fylaktakis' plays seem to be so well structured within a realistic frame.
The absent-father motivates the heroes to restore a kind of order that is far from the happy ending. But in life one cannot always hope for happy end. And Fylaktaki is great in the way she transfuses life to theater and theater to life.
The speech was delivered at New York Univestiy in New York on the 6th of May 2018 in the terms of the Greek Play Project New York. Translation: Peny Fylaktaki, Direction: Dimitris Bonaros