Reviewed by James Karas
Avlaia Theatre of Thessaloniki has produced a bold production of Golfo in Gothic Manga style that has some production values a great deal of imaginative touches but a final result that left me cold.
Golfo was written by Spyros Peresiadis in 1893 in a highly poetic, rural language (you could say hillbilly) and is described as an idyllic drama. Tassos and Golfo are poor but deeply in love. Stavroula, the daughter of the wealthy local grandee, let’s say rancher, wants to marry Tassos. Her haughty cousin Kitsos wants to marry Golfo. Tassos succumbs to the lure of wealth and disavows Golfo.
She is heartbroken and takes poison; he repents and apologizes but is too late. The poison takes effect and he stabs himself. The lovers are joined in death. Think of it as a Romeo and Juliet story with some variations.
Simos Kakalas takes the main plotline of Golfo and creates something very different and calls it Golfo! Director’s Cut. Four actors play seven of the play’s thirteen characters. Kakalas’s version has a narrator/chorus who becomes perhaps the play’s most important character. Except for the narrator, the other characters wear masks and act and speak in a highly stylized way as if they were cartoons or marionettes. It could easily be taken for children’s theatre because almost all the actors speak in an unnatural and at times childish voice.
The play opens with a length monologue by the Narrator. He is wearing a black foustanela and a black sailor’s hat and accompanies himself on an accordion. He has a long rambling monologue with a wide range of references almost none of them related to Golfo. The monologue is self-indulgent but some of the audience seemed to find it amusing. I assume the Narrator was played by Kakalas but no attempt was made to identify him or the other actors in the programme. Presumably the audience knows them all.
When the monologue is over the play begins. All is back throughout and there are projected videos of black and white cartoon figures and country scenes as well as photos of the Acropolis.
Tassos and then Golfo appear wearing masks in and play in stylized movements and stances. When birds are mentioned the Narrator appears and “produces” the birds and makes what are supposed to be humorous comments. Tassos disappears and Golfo keeps busy while we wait for Kitsos to appear. The delay is because the same actor plays both parts, Golfo tells us. Golfo wears a mask that has wide child-like eyes. She has pigtails, wears a young girl’s dress and speaks like a child.
The plot of Golfo is told fairly faithfully subject to interpolations and interruptions. Near the end the actor playing Golfo removes her mask and delivers a poignant curse to Tassos that is overwhelming in its emotional impact. She later retracts the curse again very effectively. It serves to emphasize the beauty of Peresiadis’s verse and the travesty of what Kakalas has done to the play.
One of the interpolations by Kakalas is the presentation of a Chaplinesque Hitler and a rendition of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in English to the tune of a Greek folk song. That, the English titles on the screen, the political and cultural references, the awful music and the self-indulgent humour left me in turn wondering, annoyed and at times utterly bored.
Simos Kakalas takes credit for direction, sets, movement and the script (the latter with Xenia Aidonopoulou). The actors aside from Kakalas are Dimitra Kouza, Elena Mavridou and Mihalis Valasoglou. As I said, I don’t know who played what role.
The title Golfo! Director’s Cut by Simos Kakalas is a good indicator of where the play will lead. Spyros Peresiadis is not mentioned anywhere in the programme but the director’s self-indulgence is everywhere.
Old wines can be poured into new bottles and may even gain by the transfer. But mixing new wines with old ones is a risky task that should be approached with care and humility. Kakalas exercised neither care nor humility. He jumped on the idea of shoving Golfo into a Gothic Manga straitjacket and the result was a very bad night at the theatre.
Golfo! Director’s Cut by Simos Kakalas based on play by Spyros Peresiadis played at the Avlaia Theatre, Thessaloniki, Greece until September 29, 2014. www.avlaiatheatre.gr