In Chorus by Dimitris DImitriadis,
- Irene Mountraki, Dramaturg - Theatre critic
Dimitris Dimitriadis was born in Thessaloniki. In 1963, with a scholarship from the Belgian state, he studied theater and cinema in Brussels at the National Institute of Performing Arts (INSAS). There, he wrote his first play entitled The Price of Resistance in The Black Market in 1966, a play with clear references to the political situation of its time. Patrice Chereau's direction was staged two years later, in 1968, in Paris, opening the writer's theatrical career. His first novel Dying as Country, a work about the spiritual and physical death of a country about the death of every human value and eventually the death of Man himself was published in 1978 introducing him to Greek literature. Since then starts a very fertile period for the author that reaches up today.
Along with writing, he got systematically involved with the translation of prose works – Georges Bataille, Witold Gombrowicz, Balzac –, as well as the translation of plays for various theatres – Bernard-Marie Koltes, Molière, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare –and of the ancient tragic Greeks, Aeschylus and Euripides, who have profoundly influenced him.
Dimitris Dimitriadis is an open, unfamiliar case of Modern Greek Theater. With rich dramatic production that fascinates and impresses, but also challenges, with ardent defenders of his work (it’s worth mentioning that a theater group was founded in Athens in order to stage only his plays) but also people who "refuse" to accept his work up to now. Of particular interest is the fact that he became more readily accepted abroad (mainly in France) than in his own country, and his French acceptance influenced his acceptance in Greece and contributed a lot to the wider access of his plays on stage. It is worth mentioning that in 2009-2010 the Odeon theater in Paris under the direction of Olivier Py organized a tribute to his work nominating him as contemporary European writer of the year while another tribute was held in Greece in 2013 at the Onassis Cultural Center. These tributes also contributed decisively to the "institutionalization" of the author.
The National Theater of Greece was one of the first to present his work in his homeland. Already in 1998 Dying as a Country was part of the repertory of its Experimental Stage but just last year it staged for the first time one of his plays: The Reaping. The author with his bold and unorthodox style criticizes ridiculous behavior and inflated values and he calls the audience to accept the upcoming end of civilization. This is a question he revisits in his works.
He is a witty, heretic personality who puts everything in question, even his own country and fellows. He is preoccupied with reflection, rejection, criticism, with the denouncement of everything that has been done and of everything the greek society brings with it, of the heroic and glorious past; not to reduce their value, neither to reject them but he wants to build a new relationship with them. Dimitriadis has a very personal and genius way of writing and dealing with his themes. When he appears at the Greek theatre most of the playwrights were trying to represent life on stage, give “life slices” to the audience in pure and brutal representation. Dimitriadis stands out immediately giving to his theatre a poetic and philosophical dimension with a highly elaborated linguistic style. His work resembles a tragedy that recounts the various manifestations of the human race’s failure and despair in such a way that the stage becomes a place of philosophical reflection. The core, the heart of his theatre is existence and everything that defines it: tradition, history, despair, the Other.
His dramaturgy attempts to poetically rewrite reality through his personal look, his own infiltration over things, as the writer has said. He considers it fundamental to do everything we can to get to a theatrical and poetic transformation of the present. His theater talks about human existence. How can a social entity endure something that affects it, something that goes beyond it? This is the main motivation that leads him to form and write issues recurring in his work: Identity of the person, death, love, mortality, the presence of man in the world, the world itself, human relations. He seeks to unsettle the established perceptions that are barriers to pure truth, always in conversation with his ancestors, the previous creators like Homer, Euripides or Cavafy.
His play In Chorus, is a polyphonic work; the writer goes back to the root of things, to the archetypal anxiety about what is our position in this world. Play close to his previous play Culture. A cosmic tragedy (2013) where Medea is experiencing an identity crisis as she engages herself as a tragic face in a non-tragic world. The tragedy has been stripped of its components and the reasons that gave birth to the ancient gods have collapsed, ancient cities have been destroyed, the person has lost his identity: the break with tradition is inevitable.
Respectively, in this play Chorus is in front of a unique experience. The fifteen representatives of the city, elders whose role, their mission is to tell their opinion when asked, are in front of the Palace. They were asked to come but no body told them the reason. They rushed to respond by following their "tradition". But for the first time ever, there is no one waiting for them, no one to talk them, to explain them what is happening, why they were called. The Palace is Empty. Everybody has gone. Overturn has been done. Is the Chorus able to go beyond its limits? Are they able to handle the unexpected situation? Dimitriadis is interested in the human condition. He gives us the tools to look at it.
It's amazing how Dimitriadis handles Chorus, an ensemble of people without a specific identity in order to speak out about the absolute necessity of Man to have a purpose in his life. To find out its meaning. To discover it. To be a person with name, history and self. To have its own identity even if he has to suffer and be crushed. The question is hard: are we ready to become people?
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: Theodora Papachristopoulou-Louka, Direction: Ioanna Katsarou