Adapted & Directed by: Takis Chrysikakos
A few words about the play
Nafplio, 1827: an Arvanitis wounds a Cretan in the lodgings of a Chiote and vanishes into thin air. The crime is committed after the successful outcome of the battle of Navarino, when Greeks from many different places has gathered in the hotel to celebrate the victory. A policeman does what he can to shed light on the case, but the different dialects and peculiar turns of phrase muddy the waters and his investigation descends into a fiasco.
Dimitrios K. Vyzantios wrote “Babylonia” in 1836. Using the language issue—the hottest topic of his era—as a backdrop, he created a work which put the problem posed by local dialects in the limelight, along with the need for a single Greek lingua franca. The author wanted to turn “this most saddening state of affairs” into a comedy, and thereby encourage the audience to prioritize education while highlighting the need for a standardized Modern Greek idiom. Lexical misunderstandings which feed into quarrels are a core feature of Greek popular comedy; in “Babylonia”, they provide the axis around which the text revolves.
Working in theatre is a journey. The more and more varied—in terms of their aesthetic and content—the theatrical genres you come to know and serve, the longer, more meaningful and original your journey.
I serve theatre with my successes, my failures and my mistakes. I learn from the riches of the repertoire, and I try to become better through it, so that the audiences who come to see my productions take something away with them—so my theatre serves some purpose, in other words.
In recent years, I’ve been following the difficult and alluring path of literature, staging the narratives of great authors like Vizyinos, Papadiamantis, Eleftheriou, Kazantzakis and Charitopoulos in dramatized form. This is theatre with the spoken word at its core.
“Babylonia” focuses on the language issue. Its creator has a proposal to make to the Greek state that has just won its freedom: that its people speak a single dialect, one particular form of Greek. Talking about “Babylonia”, Spyros Evangelatos notes that “It is for Greek theatre what Makriyannis’ memoires are for Greek prose”. Which is to say it is a genuinely popular work which, far from becoming old and old-fashioned as the years go by, actually seems newer and more modern.
I tackled “Babylonia” for the first time in 1990, with my friend Stavros Avdoulos, who co-directed the production; I owe him a lot. Since then, I’ve worked on and planned out the play several times, because I’m one of those directors who always approaches a work through the text: first you mould the text to the production you have in your head, taking care not to distort the playwright’s voice, then you bring what you have drafted to life on stage.
Stylistically, the production belongs to the popular expressionist genre we were taught by our mentors and which finds expression in the riches of our Greek folk tradition. It’s a ‘popular celebration', which is to say a celebration by and for the people— it’s worth stressing that, seeing as ‘popular’ has come to mean ‘cheap’ and ‘vulgar’ in these challenged times we live in. My ambition is for everyone in the audience to enjoy the play equally, no matter if they’re a child or an intellectual.
I dedicate this production to the memory of Dimitris Lagios, who wrote the inspiring music we use in it in 1990.
My heartfelt thanks, too, to the National Theatre of Northern Greece and to everyone who joined us on this beautiful journey; may the entertainment we offer up prove useful.
Adaptation-Direction: Takis Chrysikakos, Sets-Costumes: Savvas Paschalidis, Music: Dimitris Lagios, Choreography: Giorgos Sofianidis, Lighting: Stelios Tzolopoulos, Music coaching: Panagiotis Barlas, Assistant to the director & to the set-costume designer: Tatiana Nikolaidou, Second Assistant to the set-costume designer: Chara Argyroudi, Assistant to the lighting designer: Stathis Froussos, Production coordinator: Marily Ventouri
Cast: Takis Chrysikakos (Anatolian), Kosmas Zacharof (Policeman), Nikolas Maragkopoulos (Scholar), Kostas Itsios (Peloponnesian), Ilias Bermperis (Chiote), Dimitris Palaiochoritis (Innkeeper), Alexandros Moukanos (Arvanitis), Konstantinos Chatzisavvas (Cretan), Vasilis Papadopoulos (Cypriot), Lefteris Litharis (Police clerk), Thanasis Raftopoulos (Soldier)