60 European citizens committed to creating theatre that proposes new storytelling experiences about the recent financial crisis.
On the 10th of June, the stage was set for the climax of the project – the performance of a work from each country participating in the workshop. It was a fascinating collection of very different and diverse works. Spain/The Basque country, up first, delivered an intense, heated production of Goethe’s Iphegenia in Tauris. Sweeden performed two smaller works: an abstract exploration of the crisis through physical movement and affective states, as well as a brave monologue taken from the life experience of Joakim Ägren. Italy gave an inventive multimedia performance, telling the story of the crisis by way of a charming analogy; the story of Pepe. Britain performed a brutal, sadomasochistic interpretation of a new work The Interrogation, from a cycle of plays The End of The World as We Know it, by Yasmin Van Wilt. Iceland gave an aesthetically charming response to the crisis accompanied by light guitar music, created a relaxed, evening singer-songwriter vibe. France’s performance was a profoundly beautiful work performed in French, 20 minutes from the cultural centre next to the windmill on the top of the hill, looking out over a pale mauve sunset. Portugal responded to the crisis through a varied multimedia performance based on Aristophanes’ Plutus Ippis and Plato’s Symposium; and Germany gave bold and zany interpretation of The Eumenides, integrating the audience and featuring a real live chicken. Finally, Greece narrated a version of Papadiamantis’ tale of an isolated Muslim Dervish, performed with musicians from Sifnos served with a traditional drink connected to the tale, Salep.
The works exhibited a wide range of viewpoints on the crisis, and explored many different methods of working. The end results were particularly interesting for me, since I managed to catch snippets of rehearsal processes for some performances: I was curious to view the works’ evolution, seeing how they had evolved, shifted, and been polished. It was also extremely interesting aspect was noticing the relationships between the performance and workshops given throughout the experience – it was evident how some of the techniques had been developed through the workshops to refine and mould them into their final representation of the crisis.
It seems like only a second after settling on the island and forming a family, that I’m writing the final chapter of the diary. I think I speak for everyone on the trip when I say I’m incredibly sad to leave, but extremely happy to have had such an amazing experience. I’m also consoled by the knowledge that the creative relationships and friendships will continue beyond the project; Facebook is already heaving with pictures and memories, and many of us have started seriously thinking about how visits and exchanges to visit the groups in other countries. I’ve also been reflecting on how much I would have missed out on if I hadn’t been a part of the project: I don’t think I have ever gained as many international contacts, friendships, or learned so much from any other project I have undertaken.
The whole group managed to sustain the work hard play momentum right until the very end. We were on the beach each evening after dinner for jamming and dancing sessions, and midnight swimming. We held a party at the cultural centre, and many of us hired scooters to visit other parts of the island.
On 11th July, groups started to depart from the Island; the Swedish group first, to go back and do a 2 day play with their company Theatre Machine, followed by the Italians, French, Portugese and Icelandics. On the 15th July it was the turn of the Greeks, Germans and British to cross the water to Athens. (If we want any more evidence about the power of performance to deeply embed itself into the minds of the public, I heard 3 different people walking round the ship humming the theme tune to Titanic.)
The British group had one day to get to know Athens before catching the plane home – coinciding with an event which re-enforced the value and importance of the discussions and work being made on Sifnos. Getting up early to walk the streets, we were met by a sea of protesters (reports estimate 16,000) marching towards the parliament in the capital to protest against fresh government austerity measures. The entire country was crippled by a general strike, resulting in the closure of the subway. Outside the parliament in Athens, protesters chanted “No more sacrifices” and waved banners that read “Fire the troika” in reference to the trio of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) that has been acting as debt inspectors. Returning home to England, we talked about developing future projects to maintain solidarity with European countries where the crisis has cut a harder, harsher impact on the lives of the people.