Theatre is considered to be a sophisticated type of art. There are many authors who write for theatre as if they address to the most intellectual part of the population. However, there are some authors who consider theatre to be a way to express universal truth, regardless of who they write for. Harold Pinter is such an artist, and for his contribution and dedication to writing good plays and his enormous talent, he has been awarded with the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005. Only one stage hosted Pinter before the announcement of the awards in Greece this year. At the theatre “Semio” Pinter’s Betrayal is being performed in the most original, yet effective way. We spoke to the director of this avant-garde performance. Nikos Diamantes talks to LL about Pinter, theatre and life…

When audiences go to watch Betrayal at the theatre “Semio”, they could not possibly be prepared for what they are actually going to see. First and foremost, the stage set is strange and uncommon. Soon enough the audience realises that they are not attending an ordinary performance. There is only a big table on stage, around which, audience and actors are going to sit and participate as eavesdroppers to a play that wants to reveal the inner part of a person’s soul; the desires, the thoughts, the disappointments.

Nikos Diamantes is not a novice at Pinter. He has in the past put on two more performances of Harold Pinter’s plays, with different content each time. In 1992, he was the first to stage Mountain Language in Greece, and in 1999 two small pieces by Pinter, Silence and Landscape, were presented to the Greek audience, under the common title Confessions. The reason why theatre “Semio” has so frequently put on Pinter is that this particular author suits the director’s artistic, ethical and political points of view. Diamantes believes that Pinter is capable of revealing the moment, analysing the instant of human experience, in a way that no other modern playwright has managed to achieve: “Pinter is a playwright to whom we are really attracted, so that we can present a contemporary approach to aspects of eroticism, of human relationships and human loneliness and human ferociousness [I can use “violence” here as proposed, but “ferociousness” is what he said, at least in Greek it sounds better (θηριωδία)] and human despair… the moments that a man does not want to acknowledge that are hidden within his soul”.

Harold Pinter is not an easy writer, and so the rendition of his plays on stage can be very perplexing for a director. Pinter’s text is of its own so dense and well constructed that it makes the presence of the actor on stage seem a bit awkward. Attempts to give life to the actors usually result in a very mediocre performance. Nikos Diamantes’ directorial approach is plain and “strange”. It makes the audience feel uncomfortably, as if they were at a place were they oughtn’t be and they were able to hear only a single point of view. No one can have the whole picture. The discomfort for the ignorant spectator is huge. Quite probably, Pinter himself would have applauded this excellent approach.

The author hasn’t hesitated to claim that he hates the audience. He feels antagonistic towards the people who are there just to see, without real interest for what actually takes place between the lines. The director would agree with the author: “I believe that the theatre must cause repetitive shocks to the audience. The modern spectator is a lazy spectator, a spectator, who expects information to come to him effortlessly, they don’t have the luxury of time, they are terribly obese [that’s what he said! (παχύσαρκοι)]. This is the kind of spectator I must shock. They ought to be so shocked that they will take the theatrical procedure in a very overwhelming way”, Diamantes says.

Despite the intentions, though, the experiment of this performance was quite risky, for it is understandably difficult for the actors to perform properly while they are in such proximity with the audience that will judge them. For that reason, Betrayal’s first performance at theatre “Semio” was a complete disaster. The director himself had decided that the first public presentation of the play would be the first for all of them, with no additional, general rehearsals.

Everyone there was feeling the intensity and the stress of the premier performance. For these reasons, the very first performance was a catastrophe [I write “disaster” right above…]. However, from the second and on, the actors drew on all their theatrical skills to overcome the difficulties of such a challenging performance. The actors have managed to create a closed universe, where no intruders can be let in, the audience can only peek moments and scenes of what is actually happening in front of them.

There is something that has allowed Diamantes to go ahead with his avant-garde performance. This is Harold Pinter’s very strong text, such a strong and fundamentally modern text that can easily strangle any director’s attempt to go for something new. Diamantes has avoided this hitch without much effort, for a very simple reason: “I adore the written expression, I am a fanatical reader, I adore every text, literature, theatrical texts… I do believe in the texts, I love to pull them apart and reshape them, but at the same time I love them so much”, he says.

According to the director there is one basic axis in the Betrayal: “Selective memory. The memories upon which human beings build their life, their story, this is what creates rotative betrayals, because we select an incident amongst others. It is because of these choices that we form strategies. Strategies according to which, we behave even towards ourselves”.

Theatre for Nikos Diamantes cannot be divided into commercial and non-commercial performances. There is only good theatre, and poor quality theatre, everything depending on the intention. “A theatrical action, if it is really honest, looks over its limits again and again. Automatically. This is the core of artistic creation, and this is what we at theatre ‘Semio’ try to do”.

Well accomplished so far. An earnest attempt, pure and even, that can make the difference.

Δημοσιεύτηκε στο Lapsus Linguae τον Ιανουάριο του 2006

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