A Great Evening With Praxis
Yesterday was the first performance of “Το Κτίριο” (The Building”) the new Praxis production in Oxford. Praxis is a theatre group, amateur performers but with professional standards, that aims to produce contemporary Greek plays to an English speaking audience. Established by the Oxford University Greek Society they produced the satirical “Internal Affairs” last year and this year’s production is every bit as good.
My motivation in going was to help improve my Greek (the production is accompanied by English surtitles without which I wouldn’t have had a chance of following it) but the production was a great evening’s entertainment even for non-Greek speakers if the response of those around me in the audience was anything to go by.
The Building is a curious play if you are expecting conventional story telling. The audience is presented with a backdrop of a rather grand building in front of which the cast of eleven perform, in various turns, as the voice of the building itself and those that affect its life over the passing years. The voice of the building- made-conscious reveals it as first confused by its purpose, then intrigued by the strange beings that come and go through its doors. It is naive, puzzled by the attitudes of other buildings around it, and then, later, perhaps a little pompous when confronted with more modern incomers. All the time, though, the building is fascinated by the humans, the άνθρωποι, and their ability to go on making the same mistakes. Through the life of the building, the play charts Greek history through the 20th century but it does much more than that. In showing us some of the absurdities of the building’s perceptions of its surroundings it asks us all, perhaps, to question our own perceptions of the world around us.
In writing The Building, Peny Fylaktaki has done a first class job of creating a fascinating piece of theatre, as accessible in English as in Greek. Director Anastasia Revi has choreographed her cast in a way that is completely engaging, steering the audience through the lifetime of the building and the events around it.
The first-night performance, in the Michael Filch Studio, was packed. The audience, a combination of Greek and non-Greek speakers applauded enthusiastically, so I am pretty confident that they felt as I do about this terrific show. Καταπληκτική!
How was it for my Greek? Well it’s always good to have the chance to hear Greek spoken and Oxford is closer than Athens!
One other thing. As someone interested in archaeology – the means by which we make the dead stones speak – it was fascinating to see a building given its own voice.I wish we had contemporary recordings of the musings of some of the great buildings of the past (even if they suffered from similar misconceptions)!