- of Verina Choreanthi
If there is one thing that remains unchanged over the centuries – and this is true of every nation – it is tradition, as it has been handed down to us from previous generations. It may not always be evident in our daily lives, as the rhythms and lifestyles have changed dramatically, but we are still, and thankfully, constantly in touch with our folk tradition in various indirect ways. A popular proverb that we will use, for example, various expressions that we say and come from folk songs, show how rooted in us are the elements that are part of the wider space of our country's traditions.
With Ah, ta kameni ta aliasta , Filia Dendrinou, actress, dramatist-theatre pedagogue, carries out a remarkable and extremely interesting project: to connect, first on the stage of the theater and then through the pages of her book of the same title, the wonderful popular fairy tales with folk songs and poetry, but also with ancient myths. This book brings together all the main and supplementary material of a series of narrative performances based on folk tales, which Filia Dendrinou started in July 2016.
Studying more carefully the individual components of fairy tales and folk songs, we will find that both indeed have a great deal in common with the stories of our mythology. In the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the living Orpheus descends to Hades to bring back the dead Eurydice, in the allegory "The Song of the Dead Brother", one of the most beautiful poems in the world, the dead Constantine ascends to earth to perform the last his mother's desire, bringing her the only daughter who is married in a foreign land. In both myths and fairy tales, life and death are in constant confrontation, sometimes in coexistence. The boundary that separates reality from the intangible world is not always clear. Sometimes the end is good, sometimes the solutions given may seem tragic, but if we think about it, they may also be the only ones. If Orpheus didn't look back and made it safely out of the Underworld with Eurydice, would they have a happy ending or would the memories of Eurydice from the underworld haunt them forever? If Constantine failed to find Virtue, would he return idle to the Underworld or would he be doomed to wander as a ghost in the world of the living, bound by his mother's curse? Eurydice and Konstantinos belong to the category of heroes whom Filia Dendrinou so touchingly characterizes in her book as "sneaky creatures". Young, beautiful, yet doomed to teeter between life and death. As, after all, on another level, and Persephone - perhaps an even more tragic case, since half the time she was enjoying life and the other half she was suffocating in the darkness of the Underworld.
The mysterious atmosphere created by the fairy tales, their magic, are given anyway and are rendered precisely through Filia Dendrinou's elaborate, full of sensitivity and unpretentious poetry, adaptations - narrative renderings.
Fairy tales have all those elements that make them ideal material for use in the performing arts. The rich imagination, the vivid images, the memorable characters, in terms of the technical part, but also thematically: the permanent confrontation between good and evil, the intense and important participation of nature for the plot, the coexistence of realism with the metaphysical element and, consequently, the reconciliation of men with fairies, lamias, and the rest of the creatures of the imaginary world. They also have a theatricality which is not accidental at all, as fairy tales are by nature meant to be told. Filia Dendrinou chooses two fairy tales, "The Beauty and the Swan" and the better known "Birds and Eggerinos", which she adapts by including in the narrative excerpts from absurdities (original or adapted) and verses from poems. Common features of the two fairy tales are their emphasis on the power of love (of companionship and sisterhood), and the fact that they both star girls who do the impossible, literally, to find or save each other's beloved and the other her brother. Both Pentamorph's mate and Augerinos, Pullia's brother, are bound by spells that cause them to change forms. Making a quick realistic interpretation, we would say that this means that factors outside of their will and power essentially define their lives. Pentamorphi in the first case and Pulia in the second are determined to overcome any obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it may seem, in order to be reunited with their loved ones. The ending in both stories is ambiguous and, as is almost always the case with fairy tales that hide so many meanings within their simple words, can be interpreted in various ways.
With narrative skill, excerpts from poems by Kostis Palamas, Georgios Drosinis, Georgios Vizyinos, and Dionysios Solomos are interspersed in the stories, and they blend together harmoniously. The influence of folk songs, myths and fairy tales on the work of these poets is known, both from a technical point of view and also in terms of thematics, and here it is even more emphasized. Within the context of the theatrical action, the narration of the fairy tale alternates with these passages, as well as with the fragments of absurdities and obituaries. Each of the two fairy tales essentially mutates into an extensive composition, which consists of all these different but so related and related elements.
Even disconnected from the shows, Ah, Poor Wretches works great as a stand-alone book as well. The mysterious atmosphere created by the fairy tales, their magic, are given anyway and are rendered precisely through Filia Dendrinou's elaborate, full of sensitivity and unpretentious poetry, adaptations - narrative renderings. The lyricism of the partly realistic, partly imaginary world where the stories take place is emphasized, but also the tragedy of the heroes, which seems to be born with them and accompanies them during their lives insidiously, giving only faint hints of its presence, leaving them to believe for a while that they are happy. Suzana Papachristou's subtle black and white drawings, reminiscent of engravings, refer to old storybook illustrations with the necessary, yet modern perspective. Overall this project highlights the timelessness of fairy tales and the power they can have as part of artistic/interactive activities, while reminding us how important they are to our lives: they bring us back to childhood memories, yet as adults we are able to appreciate their symbolic character much more and look for interpretations on a second level.
Ah, the poor wretches
From oral tradition to the theater stage
designs: Suzana Papachristou