Are you attempting to revive the magical, ritualistic Dionysian element? In the words of Nietzsche, “How the desert of exhausted culture changes when it is touched by Dionysian magic!”
We are trying, in a sense, to follow Euripides, who, in Macedon, must have encountered the Dionysian rites in their primeval form, not the “tamed” Athenian version. So, he writes the Bacchae, asking his fellow citizens to remember. To reinstate the old myth and realize who they are and what they have lost. This is what the Bacchae always call for and that is why they will never stop being performed: they hark back to the preservation of the myth, the collective conscience. That way lies perspective. As Cadmus puts it, “Had you listened, you would have found happiness.” The Bacchae are a holy hymn that must be heard again and again to exorcise evil.
What is the evil exorcised by the Bacchae?
Mourning. The admission of hubris is made from the first moment with “We have insulted the god.” Because, Like Pentheus, we have forgotten Dionysus, the god of joy, of the body, of celebration, of freedom, of everything that invigorates us. But Dionysus will always be there. The Dionysian dynamic, the vitalizing and animating force of the nature of things will claim its space. The choice of whether our society will relate to it or not will lead to cohesion or grief.
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Are we in danger, like Pentheus, of being lacerated?
Things can only be treated if they come to light. The same is true of psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. If there is no acceptance and awareness of the problem, it is bound to keep recurring like the episodes in ancient tragedy, until it becomes irreversible and catastrophic. This is the premise through which we approach the Bacchae. Our focus is not the story itself, but the way we perceive what Dionysus brings.
Have you borrowed elements from any specific rites or is the ritual purely your own invention?
With dramaturge, Theodora Kapralou, we examined various versions of the Dionysian rites as they are historically recorded and we studied devotional practices in Macedonia, fire walking and carnival lore as descendants of Dionysian worship. We focused on possession by the divine. The faithful are enabled through masquerade, transformation, dance, singing, music and occasionally inebriation, to open up to the god. If we seek out the core of the earliest form of theatrical expression we will see both the worshiper of Dionysus and the voodoo faithful pray, dance, get drunk and sing until they are possessed by the god. It is the equivalent of an actor dancing and singing until he is possessed by the role.
In collaboration with the set and costume designer Paris Mexis, we studied the architecture and layout of various temples and other places of worship. Deconstructing them, we pinpointed some basic shapes or symbols like the circle, “god’s eye”, and we reclaimed the “holy” environment of the ritual. Dressed in their best attire, the ritualists of the ancient times slaughter goats and rams. The white cloth is splashed with the blood of the sacrifice. Because Pentheus is viewed in our performance as a holy sacrificial lamb.
In the name of what sacrifice?
In the name of human freedom.
Interview-Editing: Iliana Dimadi, Dramaturge, OCC
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