A Leap into Greece: M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A, Lena Kitsopoulou

I am impressed by the creative energies and initiative of LEAP (Lancaster Emerging Arts Platform) that brought the English language premier of M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A by Greek playwright Lena Kitsopoulou to Lancaster last Friday night (5th July, Storey Institute). I’m also impressed that the production put Lancaster on the ‘what-to-see’ radar of Guardian critic Lyn Gardner (http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2013/jul/05/theatre-tips-what-to-see-lyn-gardner).

There’s a zeitgesity feel to the staging of Kitsopoulou’s one-woman play. Other recent theatre events such as the Royal Court’s ‘The Big Idea: PIIGS’ (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) underscore the idea that this is a timely moment for audiences in the UK to be seeing work that provokes thinking about and concern for neighbouring European countries whose people are the most severely affected by the economic crisis in the Eurozone. M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A was originally written and performed at the National Theatre of Greece in 2009 when the country was first spiralling into economic downturn; revived in 2013 for an English audience it’s hard not to see the show, rightly or wrongly, as an outside-in window on to a country where the crisis has deepened.

However, as a state-of-the-nation play M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A unfolds not as a political commentary but through the personal story of one middle-aged woman’s struggle to cope with a life – especially sex life – filled with mediocrity if not disappointment. Compositionally, the script slip-slides between a dominant register of realism and flights into the poetic and the surreal that serve to move the dramatic landscape beyond the confines of everyday, domestic entrapment. This is especially true of the ending where life/Greece is (re)viewed from beyond the grave and the heroine’s less than satisfactory relations with the male species continue with the recitation of a far from ‘heavenly’ encounter with a churlish St Peter. (With more performances in the planning, I don’t want to give too much away and for this post to be a spoiler – but something like Sarah Daniels’ early black comedy Ripen Our Darkness comes to mind.)

This show isn’t as explicitly political as Franca Rame’s one-woman monologues from Italy of which I’ve long been a fan. Rather it is, as previously suggested, the current crisis in Greece that appears to lend a political edge to Kitsopoulou’s script. Nonetheless it has left me wanting to learn more about and to see more of Kitsopoulou’s theatre. Hence my thanks for Lancaster’s ‘leap’ into Greece.

Elaine

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