When the Reality of the Essence Stands in Front of The Meaningless Chatter

Raphael Tanopulos, Fix Carrè (Thessaloniki), May 2001

(original in Greek, translated by Tania Kitsu)

During an especially rich theatrical year, May (usually an empty month) has reserved for us interesting surprises that brought us in contact with international theatre.

First of all, we had a solo performance of the distinguished director John Schranz on 11 May at the Avlaia theatre – an event organised by P.L.E.F.S.I. Using texts by Dylan Thomas, Descartes, Borges, Baricco, Conrad, Hemingway, and Shakespeare, the performance Id-Descartes is set in black scenery, with only basic elements (a red-covered table) and with only a single actor on stage - the worthy Frank Camilleri – sculpturing the space within an hour.

John Schranz succeeded in transmitting western man’s agony of thought, sentiments and existential questions. I want to believe that the use of a solitary actor has been made deliberately in order to describe the human being’s nature, unique and multiple as it is: an identity that will be broken in pieces and subsequently recomposed, having the self-awareness of its own complexity.

This point of view is supported by the performance’s choice of textual fragments from Descartes which talk about the transformations of matter, as well as by the use of three languages – English, Italian, and Maltese – to emphasise the richness of the expression, of the linguistic rhythm, and of the different ways that the sound of each language has been received by the audience.

Undoubtedly, this risky endeavour needed a great interpreter. Frank Camilleri, constant collaborator of John Schranz, literally dissolved his body in an endless expressive motion, while his extremely cultivated voice transmitted to the audience, with its enormous variety of modulations, the reality of emotions, contemplations, and imaginations that he experienced on stage. This was an interpretation that respects and honours the meaning of theatrical act.

Id-Descartes nearly succeeded, by the use of only the basic principles of theatre (without any tricks), to reach the unreachable: to transform into theatre the words of Descartes: ‘Give me space and motion and I will make the universe’. Alternating existential agony and moments of bright humour, the performance brought us closer to the concept of a modern ‘poor theatre’ that is not distant from mystagogy.

During the festival of the ‘Association of European Theatres’, the play Brothers and Sisters was presented in the Royal Theatre by the Mali theatre from St. Petersburg, Russia. Based on the novels of Theodore Alexandrovitz Abramas, the play was directed by Lev Dodin. [Here follows a critique of Brothers and Sisters, concluding:] Comparing the density and functionality of Id-Descartes to the useless chatter of Brothers and Sisters we surely prefer John Schranz’ s proposal.