Hugh Leonard’s Da is a memory play, an elegy, a lyrical piece about a father-son relationship and in its own way a tribute to the author’s father.
The play opens with Charlie (Dimitris Siakaras) sitting on the edge of the stage in front of the curtain waiting for a rehearsal. Some cast members arrive and the curtain opens on n scene where some people are attending a funeral. We realize that the funeral is for Charlie’s father the Da (dad) of the title. Bur after some short dialogue to set the scene, the ghost of Charlie’s father (played by Kostas Santas) begins to speak. The rest of the play will present scenes from Charlie’s life as a middle aged writer and as Charlie in his youth played by Anastasis Roilos.
Maria Chtziioannidou, Dimitris Siskaras, Anastasis Roilos, Nikos Kapelios,
Lilian Palantza, Orestis Chalkias, Kostas Santas, Dimitris Kotzias
This is Charlie’s story but the main character is Da because Charlie wants to come to terms with his relationship with his father. Da is a fundamentally decent man who adores his son. Charlie was born illegitimate but Da adopted him and loved and cared for him for the rest of his life. Da spent his working life as a gardener for a wealthy woman and had no other ambition.
Drumm, (Dimitris Kotzias) is a high-placed civil servant who acts as a mentor and father-figure for Charlie. There is a marvelous scene near the beginning of the play where Da brings Drumm to the house hoping that he will get Charlie a job. It is during World War II and Da is an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis and to Charlie’s immeasurable embarrassment, predicts their victory. Drumm advises Charlie to get out of Ireland and its great limitations but gives Charlie a job as a clerk where he stays for years.
The other characters in Charlie’s life are his adoptive mother (played by Lilian Palantza), his friend Oliver (young Oliver played by Orestis Chalkias and older Oliver played by Nikos Kapelios) Charlie’s love interest Mary (Christina-Artemis Papatriantafyllou) and Da’s employer Mrs. Prynne (Maria Chatziioannidou).
The play is a moving journey into the past and a visit with Charlie’s ghosts. Santas gives us a highly sympathetic, simple unambitious and unsophisticated Da. People like that are not the type we ususally meet in drama but Leonard has written such a character and Santas is superb in his acting of him.
Siakaras as the middle-aged Charlie is a man who needs to come to terms with his past and his relationship with his loving and decent father and a world from which escaped with great difficulty. Siakaras and Chalkias carry us along the journey with high-caliber acting.
Kotzias is good as the upper crust Drumm and Papatriantafyllou is attractive as the low-class Mary.
Dimosthenis Papadopoulos translated, directed and dramaturged the play making some changes at the beginning and the end and making Leonard’s text a play-within-a-play. The acting is good and cohesive but Papadopoulos did have to deal with the insoluble problem of putting on a production in translation. We do not get the lilit and musicality of the Irish accents nor the social structure indicated by them. The production provides the English text of the play in surtitles.
Papadopoulos and Set Designer Stavros Litinas move away from any hint of Irish by having the play done on an empty stage with a view of the sky in the background. There are a few seats at the back where the actors sit when they are not part of the actions. It is probably a good compromise (and much cheaper) from trying to create realistic Irish backgrounds.
Papadopoulos has made the play his own within the obvious and insurmountable limitations of producing an Irish play in Greek. The result is quite intriguing and noteworthy.
Da by Hugh Leonard opened on January 27, 2018 and continues at the Theatre of the Society for Macedonian Studies, 2 Ethnikis Amynis, Thessaloniki, Greece, www.ntng.gr