The tamer of time and death

The Tamer of Time and Death

Lasha Chkhartishvili

 

Photos by Julian Mommert

 

One life of Dimitris Papaioannou's “The Great Tamer,” which premiered in Athens in May 2017, ended at the Athens Concert Hall "Megaron". After a successful tour in many countries around the world, and in different continents, Dimitri Papaioannou’s unique performance was presented by his universal troupe for the last time on November 29-30, 2019.

 

Now begins the second, much different life of "The Great Tamer," which is settled in our minds and awakens in our memories, the thought about it never leaves you, as does the thought about death, time, about the universe in general, about the black and white future ... thoughts never leave those people as well who have heard about Vangelis Giakoumakis’s mysterious murder or suicide...This weird tragic story has become a source of inspiration for “The Great Tamer” for one of the distinguished contemporary artists – a theater director, choreographer and visual artist Dimitris Papaioannou.

 

“The Great Tamer" is about a man and his destiny in the world, his place in life and in weightless space, about his constant conflict with the environment. This unique performance is about a human who wants to tame time, death, and everything around him. It's impossible, isn’t it? Dimitri Papaioannou's scenic heroes can do it all.

 

Dimitri Papaioanou is not only an artist who can surprise audience with experiments, but also an analyst, a philosopher who speaks to contemporary audience about what is happening around us through various means of art, theatrical signs and peculiar theatrical language. With metaphors and allegories, he can show the cruel, gray, black-and-white world in which the light is always opposed to the dark.

 

Dimitri Papaioannou is the creator of not only the new language of the artist's theater, but also a researcher. He is the inventor of new forms, which amazes the viewer through the integration of various fields of art and constant experimentation. He paints plots, scultps mise-en-scènes, makes up stories, and invites us to think analytically. "The Great Tamer" is the best example of this.

 

In Dimitri Papaioannou’s imaginary grey world (Scenographer: Tina Tzoka, Costume Designer: Angelos Mentis, Artistic Lighting: Evina Vassilakopoulo) dominate only contrasting colors, black and white. Like in life, there are opposed life and death, good and evil, but this confrontation is not trivial and stereotypical. Ponderability is breached, but strictly are protected trajectory and score of all movements, which actors perform scrupulously, with elegance, simplicity and accuracy.

 

In this play by Dimitri Papaioannou (as in all other works) the man is an ideal, perfect being. Antique sculptures (and not only they), perfect bodies and perfect people come alive in front of the audience. The director tells the story of the human path from life to death and from death to the second life.

 

The actors will play the burial scene skillfully (albeit several times). A hero covered in a shroud, is "resurrected" several times (this is a rapidly growing and dynamic episode), one is covering shroud on his body, another takes it off with the effect of the wind. From here begins the first conflict that occurs several times throughout the play.

 

“The Great Tamer" is made up of little stories. These stories are multi-level études where the author of the performance is not only a theater director but also a choreographer and sculptor. All episodes consist of finely crafted details, and the mise-en-scène turns into a certain sculpture or a painting (even Rembrandt's “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” is worth mentioning!). Sculptural figures of gods, semi-gods, mythical characters, centaurs, amazons come alive in front of us ... they are parts of one big, gray world, beautiful, refined, arrogant.

 

Dimitri Papaioannou and his like-minded people, create a world that shatter, smash; here the ground quakes under everybody's feet and it swallows every creature, absorbs, takes into the hell. The body breaks down into limbs, into parts, into skeletons, and bones into ash, ground. Everything goes back to the initial, to the first, and firstly, the human being.

 

Life is a constant conflict with the environment, with the human, with himself, with time, with death ... From the very start the human has been trying to tame, subdue and exploit his opponent. The process is dramatic, sometimes tragic and sometimes comical.

 

His invention in creating a spectacular scene, brings a smile as well as sorrow to the audience. These events, however, obey the regularity in “The Great Tamer". Each mise-en-scène is associated with an already seen dance, painting, sculpture, but what we can see is Papaioannou’s edition of the seen, a sort of version consisting of semiotic signs that completely newly reinterprets a myth or reality.

 

Dimitri Papaioannou’s actors: Paulina Andriopoulou, Alex Vangelis, Ektoras Liatsos, Yannis Michos, Ioanna Paraskevopoulou, Evangelia Randou. Drossos Skotis, Christos Strinopoulos, George Tsiantoulas, Kostas Chrysafidis are universal artists, with distinguished, antique sculpture-like bodies and unique plastics, extensive capabilities and great creative resources. The performance of Drosos Scottis, Christos Strinopoulos, Ioanna Paraskevopoulou and Alex Vangelis is particularly thrilling. Their abilities go beyond the capabilities of one particular actor, they are artists of immense resource and talent.

 

The backdrop for this nonverbal spectacle is the musical soundtrack that, on the one hand, features Johann Strauss' “The Beautiful Blue Danube” (Johann Strauss II: An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314) adapted and natural noises by Stefanos Drousiotis, which as a symphony, is created by the vibration of wooden plates, the sound of their fall and friction. This is how Strauss's (slowed) waltz is replaced by the natural sounds of breathing, thin plates of wood, arrow throwing and falling, sounds of the falling ground on stage. This noise is also music, a melody that creates an atmosphere and a musical accompaniment for dancer-actors.

 

“The Great Tamer" is a magical spectacle that captivates and fascinates, entertains and contemplates, amazes at seeing and experiencing; it is a constant surprise, which fascinates with the director’s invention, high professionalism and skillfulness of the actors, universality and inexhaustible potentials, ideal bodies, esthetic perfection, the director’s imagination...

 

Like Vangelis Giakoumakis, at least one person disappears every day in the world, and their death also leaves many unanswered questions. The human still continues trying to tame time and death.