On 1 July, after a forced absence of two years, Julidans was back and decided to open with a bang. At ITA, Greek theatre maker Euridipis Laskaridis and his company Osmosis presented Elenit, a show that unmistakably lures its viewers away from the issues of the day. Despite the apparent chaos, the show is solidly constructed, but above all unforgettable because of the strong performers who convincingly embody their fantastic characters to the full.
One of them is John the Baptist, who, with his head still on a blood-splattered plate, returns to his deejay stand to work the sound system. By then we have already seen him on his skateboard crossing the stage several times to a fur-covered drumset, and amidst the group of people who lifted him onto a table to cut off his head. At this point in the show however, the utter surprise you may have felt initially about this motley crew, has given way to acceptance as you start floating into a cosmos where dimensions in space and time dissolve and we are all united in the end.
The deejay-turned-biblical-figure, borrowed from the famous canvas by Caravaggio, is just one of the characters which Laskaridis and his crew have carefully constructed. From the main character who resembles Marie Antoinette with her sculptural wig and lavish attire in powdery colours, to the singing dinosaur whose richly decorated round thighs sway voluptuously, these performers are all plastered in thick layers of fabric, wigs and masks until their own bodily features and mechanics have disappeared. In this sense – albeit on the other far end of the scale – they relate to the ballets Oscar Schlemmer presented, with his geometrical depiction of human movement in space. In Elenit Laskaridis does a similar thing with his fully transformed people onstage. But unlike Schlemmer, Laskaridis and costume designer Angelos Mentis have constructed characters who firmly retain their human shape, such as the old woman whose body has warped over time.
From their babbling, verbal spats and cries, it soon becomes clear that it’s impossible to make out what language is spoken onstage, apart from the repetitive outcry ‘What is your problem’, which is followed with an exclamation mark rather than a question mark. Nevertheless, the communication is universal. Who wouldn’t understand a furious and screaming old lady pointing a gun at the audience? Or a hysterical maid whose emotions are so fierce that they swallow up every word she wants to utter? The same goes for their actions. Telephone calls are received. Somebody rolls from under a huge skirt onto the stage as if they were born from history. Time and again, the protagonist enters with her little book in her hand, being both the center of attention and a reflective bystander to forecast a disturbing sense of the future.
The physical development is also cleverly telling, with Marie-Antoinette towering high over the stage at first, but somewhere along the lines is shrunken down to her knees, or the group of people who in the end all have their faces morphed into the head of the old man walking around on stage in a suit and with a list under his arm: wrinkled and bold.
As alarming as all of this may read, to describe in few sentences what Elenit is about would restrict the show to semiotics, which is clearly not the road Laskaridis is traveling. The director and choreographer draws upon different sources, from choreography to commedia dell’arte, from theatre to fine arts. From the uniting in space and teleportation of historical figures, to the invitation to the audience into a sparkling and weightless universe. And as several scenes unfold with this grab bag of references, in this world of characters both grotesque and at times hilarious, you come closer and closer. For their transformations point to a deep interest in the human experience.