•  Savvas Kiriakidis, Dramaturg

In Greek theatrical life, Michalis Virvidakis has been registered equally as an actor, a director, a writer, a drama teacher, and founder of a theatre group with a consistent course and a tight repertoire[1]. I know not how he defines himself and whether he projects one of these abilities. I do not think he has to. What is interesting, however, as far as his writing ability is concerned, is that from 1987 to 2014, in a period of 27 years, he has "displayed" -at least to the public eye- only three theatrical plays[2]. He himself, in an interview about his second play, has revealed that he works on his writing for a very long time, and even at the moment of their presentation he feels that they are not complete. In any case, this "small" production of plays, asserts the general feeling that his entire career radiates: Michalis Virvidakis is a creator who produces carefully and cautiously.

When 27 years separate his first and last playwright (and even more if one takes into account that his first work took a considerable amount of time to be completed) every attempt to pinpoint a cohesive stigma founds itself facing factual difficulties: within 27 and still counting years, the diversification of some aesthetical  pursuits, the multi collection of influences, the great scale of speculation, even the meta-evolution of one's worldview are inescapable. However, in Virvidakis' case, despite the differences one can detect in his works, one does not find it difficult to note some common elements that run throughout his dramaturgy, that are not differentiated, as far as their basic use in concerned, and are ripening and reshaping. Elements that one detects in both his method of writing and the content of his work.  

A transcendental realism, within which there lie eccentric faces, lonely faces, sometimes mystifying faces, stage designs that are outside the classic urban "walls", lyrical images that run through the script, mainly through repetitive monologues, and a rather "closed", encoded verbal game, are some of basic techniques of writing. In his scripts, action does not seem to be a priority, nor the development of the main story. He only makes use of the above "conventional materials" to stage a canvas of narrative of personal stories, stories that bring into the surface inner worlds, enigmatic pasts, traumatic experiences, lonely routes and repressed emotions. Stripped from melodramatisms, even there where the environment could nurture them, in a language that -play by play- adopts an even more lyrical shade and a poetic concentration, and with a subcutaneous humor that undermines any type of pomposity. For Virvidakis, "normal" situations, modern comments, everyday friction, seem to be but are actually not the main material. In the mundane environment there will infiltrate -of it does not already exist- a transcendental factor, which will open the door the paranormal. Even if the framework seems to build bridges to naturalism, the material unfolds in such a way, so as the reader can quickly see through the verisimilitude, to the archetypical and allegorical element. Ourania's narration for the moon and the almost dreamlike presence of the Man on the first play, the ingrained bed and the "presence" of the mother in the second, the coexistence of the wet element of the ocean with the sky and the moon -again the moon, and this time with a magic property- in the third, they create a scenery that cannot be construed through the realistic reading. Hence, a love story evolves into a symbolic flight towards freedom, a family drama into a drama of mother Earth, and a random meeting in the healing sea into an osmosis of the elements of nature and a circular course of the souls. Is not random at all that the frontispiece of the second and third play, with references to Heraclitus and Empedocles, provide a key, at least to the reader and to the performer.

Virvidakis masters the technique. The director and the actor hold open the doors of communication with the writer. He constructs and deconstructs his material with ease, the relatively  short scenes gave rhythm, inner unity and they evolve clearly. The writer, however, does not stop to wink at the audience and ask of them to be always in alert. He "freely" offers some elements, conceals some others, in an invitation of discovery of the treasure from the point of view of the interlocutor. Pessoa, Beckett, Pinter are all present as he composes his words. His characters -few and, indiscriminately (!) 2 men and 1 woman in every play[3]- do not hold communication as a priority, but they only want to talk. And, through their peculiar -as far as society, age or origin is concerned- identity, they deal with the themes of loneliness, identity, loss, eradication and -mostly in the last play- existence, matter, continuity and fluidity and even the soul, that signal maybe the personal course of the writer himself.

Virvidakis' work may not be "digestible", this however does not make it theatrically fractious. With the knowledge of the person that has a practical relationship with theatre, Virvidakis invests in intense primal situations, pregnant and solid characters and in floating questions reaching for answers. Reading or watching his plays, you can find more than one. 


[Translation: Artemis Palaska]



[1] It is Theatre Company "Mneme," which was founded in 1991 and since 2001 it has carried its artistic activities from Athens to Chania, Crete.


[2] It the plays "The Moon and the Pound," "On the Highroad with High Beam Lights" and "About Nature."

[3] Only in his third play, there is a slight deviation from the three-characters pattern, as in one of the scenes of the play there is a quaint dance of "pilgrims" barging into the stage.