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Caryatid Unplugged

Evi Stamatiou
Rosemary Branch Theatre

Evi Stamatiou Credit: Upopirates Theatre
Ellen Mcleod as Michael Gove, Evi Stamatiou and Tom White as Melina Mercouri Credit: Upopirates Theatre

Versatile-voiced Evi Stamatiou not only plays the titular caryatid, a statue from the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis in Athens, but a gruff British immigration officer and a modern Greek woman, an economic migrant to the UK.

The women, materialising as a blonde wig bouncing on a stick, wants to stay in England; the caryatid, a prisoner in the British Museum, wants to go back to Greece and rejoin her sisters who support the temple entablature. The emigration officer (a broom wearing a pair of sunglasses) is stuck with dealing with their cases.

These performances were a last-minute replacement for a workshopping of a new piece of Evi’s that had to be postponed for legal reasons. They are an updating of a show that has already pleased audiences in Edinburgh and elsewhere and trying to keep up-to-date just after Brexit and with the sudden announcement of Michael Gove’s bid for the Tory leadership and Boris Johnson’s withdrawal had clearly demanded fresh changes, for these characters were joined by a life-sized cardboard Michael Gove and a blonde-wigged, bearded Melina Mercouri, the actress who was also Greek Minister of Culture.

The caryatid not only represents the case for the return to Greece of the so-called “Elgin marbles” but those Greeks whom their economic crisis caused to come to London who want to go back there while the counterpart countrywoman wants the opposite. I don’t know how this played out in earlier versions when entry was a right under EU freedom of movement but now Brexit puts in doubt that situation for those who are currently working here.

Though Stamatiou is posing some serious questions, she presents them jokily in a show that aims at fast-paced fun rather than hard-hitting satire. She is a natural clown but takes things so fast and with such a mixture of accents and funny voices that dialogue frequently becomes hard to follow. Her spirited, madcap performance retains the freshness of improvisation. It is that that the audience responds to rather than any serious satire. If there is sharp, political point-making, I missed most of it.

Once the main theme is established, Stamatiou is joined in her clowning by Ellen Macleod, who also becomes the Gove puppeteer, and Tom White as very unlikely drag act Melina.

Topical satire isn’t easy and this latest version of Caryatid Unplugged needed to be more firmly rooted in hard fact to hit home. Perhaps it will get its audiences arguing about the case for the return of the Parthenon sculptures and the position of migrants but it doesn’t offer much information to fuel that discussion.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton