Conceived by Magdalena Zira, written by Nasia Dionysiou, Antonis Georgiou, Avgi Lilli and Charalambos Giannou
Fantastico Theatro, presented by Cyprus in the UK
In spring 2020, Cypriot company Fantastico Theatro of Nicosia commissioned this play during their first COVID lockdown. It premièred last December with just one performance before the imposition of a second lockdown. This is part-filmed stage performance and part-film directed by Magdalena Zira with film directed by Elena Alonefti. It is performed in Greek with English subtitles and presented as part of the High Commission’s online programme Theatre at Home from Cyprus.
It begins with a prologue that recounts the ancient story of Philemon and Baucis from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: an aging couple who, alone in their village, gave hospitality to gods in disguise and were saved from the flooding that befell the rest of the village. Offered reward, they asked only to die at the same time.
The themes of the Flood and the wish not to live without a loved partner recur through the short plays each writer has contributed. The first, with strong echoes of Noah and the effect of climate change, is a play for voices played as the camera ranges over what looks like at tangle of a landscape from which flood has retreated and seems to be continued after the second play in a sequence accompanied by mirrored kaleidoscopic camerawork.
Meanwhile, the second play, set a contemporary lockdown situation, presents an elderly man who seems to be suffering from mild dementia being cared for by his son, who helps him to shower. It is staged as a reading from lecterns, socially distanced, which strangely adds emphasis to the intimacy and nakedness that isn’t physically presented, its discretion matched by its sensitivity. The film background of rain is briefly interrupted by sunshine and the blossoming of flowers: a brief glimpse of hope, perhaps at the memory of Zoula their late wife and mother.
A third play sees an elderly man in a wheelchair and the woman being reminded by some photos in the room where they are waiting of a time long ago when they visited an ancient tree at Dodona. At first, this seems to be a reunion after long absence when they reach back to a moment of what she calls Πληρότητα (plenitude, a sense of completeness), but it is not quite so simple. It is beautifully played by the two actors.
The final play offers two people waiting for a visitor who seems delayed. Once again it is raining. There is even a leak in the roof, which the man with his back to us in an armchair had promised to fix long ago. He is unshaven and unkempt, uptight and anxious; while his wife or partner seems more concerned by the man’s non-arrival, she’s carefully put on her make-up for his expected arrival. We can see the lake outside rising, reflections taking up more space than what they are reflecting.
It is pretty obvious that it is Death they are waiting for, but when their visitor arrives, this is what he or they expect, but we are back in the Philemon and Baucis myth.
The credits do not identify who wrote which play or give the casting, but the actors are Varsia Adamou, Nedes Antoniadis, Diomedis Koufteros, Marios Constantinou, Dinos Lyras, Eleni Molesci and Erica Begeti. The video is only briefly available but catch it if you can.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton