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A Party at Al-Nouri’s

 
OPENING: 02/02/2020
DAYS & TIMES: Tuesday to Friday at 10:30 (Schools)
Every Sunday at 11:00 (General public)
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes (including interval)
SCHOOL RESERVATIONS: T. 2315 200 012
TICKET SALES: NTNG Box Offices (Τ. 2315 200 200) | VIVA.gr | Τ. 11876 
 
A few words about the play
Takis Papadakis and his two children arrive at the camp site where they spend their summers. This year, though, some others have beaten them to their usual place. Who are these strangers? Who is the Other when you strip away the stereotypes and prejudices that colour our judgement? What’s it like to live alongside this Other? In the end, how similar and how different are we? And can a child’s eye view and children’s play help us focus not on our differences, but on the things that unite us: the need we share to live together and respect our diversity? “Party at Al-Nouri’s” is a subversive comedy about stereotypes and cultural differences for theatregoers of all ages. It was written and performed in the early 1970s by Berlin’s Grips Theatre, a company known to us here in Greece thanks to another of their works, “Mormolis”. It’s worth noting that the play’s original German title translates as “A celebration at the Papadakises”, since its immigrant family was from Greece.
 

The playwright
Volker Ludwig is the founder of Berlin’s historic Grips Theatre, which this year celebrated its first half century in operation. He was artistic director of the theatre from 1972 to 2008. During his time at the Theatre, he wrote over 40 plays for children, young people and adults. Plays of his have been translated into over 30 languages and performed in 50 countries. Thanks to their efforts to animate children and young people through theatre, the Grips changed the theatre landscape for children around the world. The Grips theatre grew out of the student movement in what was then West Berlin. Having established itself as a free theatre group, it is now an indispensable Berlin institution.
 
Director’s Note
"Nothing is more disarming than the simple truth, nothing more exotic than our everyday lives, nothing more phantasmagoric than reality, and nothing more exciting in the world than the times in which we live."
Egon Erwin Kisch
 
The Children’s Theatre we propose is a theatre whose like is rarely seen in Greece. It is a theatre for people aged 6 and up.
 
We want to establish a new emancipated theatre for children and young people to replace the moralizing ‘Christmassy’ style of the undemanding sentimental fairy tales that has come to represent children’s theatre here in Greece; a theatre of entertaining, realistic stories which are shaped by their relationship to everyday life, with  which our young audience can identify, and in which they can recognize their own homes and families.
In place of a children’s theatre that would be more at home in the 19th century, we propose a theatre which hinges on youngsters’ own experiences, giving the on-stage drama an impact that stays with the audience afterthe play is finished.
 
 

This theatre for children is a great way of releasing the dramatic arts from their bourgeois straitjacket. The children are free to get into the performance, to weep and laugh and get carried away, to create the conditions for a quality popular spectacle of the sort propounded by Peter Brook and Augusto Boal, or even in the manner of Shakespeare’s popular theatre in which everyone can recognize themselves and their reality, their problems,
fantasies and dreams, their anger and desires in the on-stage action; pull this off, and every performance is transformed into an interactive celebration.
 
To achieve this, actors and audience, the stage and the stalls, have to be brought closer together through the sort of meaningful, realistic communication that empowers the collective theatrical experience—a theatre in which the young audience doesn’t just watch something enacted by the cast, but recognize and feel for the actors as fellow human beings.
 
To start to win a child’s trust, you need to treat them as equals and put your arguments to them directly, creating the space that will place them at the epicentre of things and allow them to teach us about life.
 
The experience of staging “Party at Al-Nouri’s”, “Gela, Lela, Kornas and Kleomenis” (“Balle, Malle, Hupe und Artur” in the original German), “Stronger than Superman” and other plays over the last 9 years in Athens with the Manufacture of Laughter company has shown us how to win that trust and fuelled a desire for emancipation, given how unwilling society seems to give free rein to the authentic and spontaneous creativity of children.
 

The emancipated anti-authoritarian theatre which the Grips Theatre (the company who also created the pioneering children’s play “Mormolis”) established in Berlin puts children at the centre of the conversation and of life and advocates for and with them in a world that is hostile to kids.
 
Which is why it is such a joy and an honour to have been given the opportunity by the National Theatre of Northern Greece to work in such ideal conditions on a new version of my friend Volker Ludwig’s wonderful play “Party at Al-Nouri’s” (“Ein Fest bei Papadakis”: in the original German version from 1973, the immigrant family was Greek). It is a work which topical subject of racism and prejudice against immigrants and refugees. Time after time, racism has found our contemporary societies unprepared and unsure how to act, especially when it comes to children’s education.
 
The play seeks to highlight the virtues of tolerance, understanding and immediate identification which children display among themselves, over and above the ghettoization imposed by the lines different ethnicities and social classes draw between themselves and others.
 
We believe that racial discrimination, xenophobia and racism are products of fear, a lack of education, and ideological idées fixes and not a primordial tendency which can be justified as ‘natural’. This is a dialogue which circumstances have forced Greek society to have. The show hopes to become a meaningful and enlightening voice aimed at children which makes use of the world of children who, in this play once again and in the most timely and realistic terms, “show us how it’d done”.
 
I truly hope that our European societies and the theatre-going public can be taught and inspired by its children, and that they will make the most of this NTNG initiative for a trailblazing children’s theatre.
 
Finally, I would like to thank my friends, the cast of the production who tell the story of Al-Nouri’s party so sensitively, the former Artistic Director, Yannis Anastasakis, and Maria Tsima for getting things underway and for their support, and the current director, Nikos Kolovos, and all the staff at the NTNG who have supported us throughout: it has been a wonderful, non-stop adventure.
 
Vasilis Koukalani
Manufacture of Laughter
 

CREDITS
Translation-Adaptation-Direction: Vassilis Koukalani
Sets-Costumes: Alexandra Siafkou, Aristotelis Karananos
Music: Kostas Nikolopoulos
Lighting: Stelios Tzolopoulos
Director’s Assistant: Marios Karvounakis
Set-Costume Designer’s Assistant: Chara Argyroudi
Production Photography: Tasos Thomoglou
Production Coordinator: Eva Koumandraki
 
CAST
Thanos Feretzelis (Al-Nouri), Georgia Kyriazi (Dora), Grigoris Papadopoulos (Papadakis), Kostis Rampavilas (Giannis), Giannis Varvaresos (Samir), Fani Xenoudaki (Abira)