•  Grigoris Ioannidis, Assistant Professor, Theatre Studies Department, University of Athens


Roula Faneromeni or –This is who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf...


Translation: Elina Palaska

Roula Georgakopoulou appeared on our stage as a writer rather sporadically, reluctantly, with bashfulness and muffled reflection on the purpose of the venture.[1] In a sense, this was completely expected. Behind any barriers -the sardonic humor of the drama, the continuous diversion of meaning- her writing reveals the body of a sensitivity which feels exposed, ashamed, and embarrassed walking on stage.

This is a feature of a very special case in our drama, a case I believe should be approached with the same care, diligence and bashfulness, on either side. For those who have the patience and good intention to see things which lie behind the words and behind the style barriers, Georgakopoulou’s theater will then reveal a rare clarity and a valuable reading of the "female landscape" of Metapolitefsi.

Externally therefore –in a defensive manner- Georgakopoulou’s theater moves in the courtyard of surrealism and the patio of the absurd. The playful use of language, the unexpected and novel element, the mental overstimulation of the text are obvious from her part. Sometimes, however, the questions lead elsewhere, to the darker grounds of existentialism: there we find creatures of fantasy and dream, yesterday’s nightmares with phobias and guilt, roles and masks behind the one and single "self."

One would be tempted to notice something else: that Georgakopoulou’s theater is also built by the technique which stems from her professional, journalistic education: the method of serial "humorous story", which particularly flourished in magazines during Metapolitefsi (and found its most famous peak in the texts of Freddy Germanos and Elena Akrita). In this genre, which is the mixed derivative of vignettes and serials, where Roula Georgakopoulou is considered one of the most remarkable representatives, two elements are entwined: the external daily reality (in its most absurd and middle class appearance) and the internal need of the author to preserve within them a hidden grain of common sense and moderation, a grain of good. And from this contiguity -with humor always being the catalyst- the spark of comic and ironic relief is created.

This path can be taken by someone so as to walk, for the first time, in the work of Georgakopoulou. Only for the first steps, of course: because in her case the theatrical text is written not in the center but on the sidelines of occupational employment, when the lights dim and all is placed in the penumbra.

Most of the above items are conveying what follows: The “external absurd reality" is no longer (just) the Greek everyday life during the dictatorship and Metapolitefsi, with all its bureaucracy, the lack of organization, the bourgeoisie culture and the oppression. Here the "external reality" deepens and widens, leaning on the look of a woman and an identity that is not always clear, nor unwavering ("Faneromeni"). It touches the fingertips of poetry with dream creatures ("Prosperina"), sometimes comically and sometimes sharply ("Your breezy undergrounds"), it schematically brings surrealistic landscapes ("Overnight"), irritations that plague the grounds of any Modern Greek woman. It carries into the now and here, the memory of a wild adolescence, which is furious with the suffocation of the province, the repression of dictatorship, the eroticism and the doubt of adulthood.

Through Georgakopoulou her generation -and all that we awkwardly call, causing more harm than good, "female theater" - brings to light, after Lyberaki, Anagnostaki and Mitropoulou, the vision of the world through the expression of a female voice, which monitors, records, wonders and is boggled as a woman and like a woman.

I conclude: on the one hand the "external reality" which is touched by Georgakopoulou’s theater, a reality of surface and depth, alternating and sometimes intertwining. And on the other hand, the person standing opposite to this reality. Her theater usually places a clever-very clever, indeed- young woman with deep culture and lots of coquetry, charismatic, who looks compromised with her sex and properties. A Woman without limitation, with abilities and plenty of space to act.

And what does something like this mean in our country and during recent decades? Freedom, perhaps, or self-sufficiency? Very often, I fear, floating in the void...

So we arrived in the center of Georgakopoulou’s theater, what is commonly called the "existential core". Regardless of the topic, every time I personally “meet” her on stage, I have the impression that I am watching some woman floating on the ceiling...

I have another impression: How all her plays could, thus, be sorted and constitute separate chapters of a single river-play, a theatrical novel or a road-movie, their theme being this "floating”: In an "Overnight shop", a woman looks for her garment-identity with the help of a seller-psycho responder, and the buzzing of the Athens metro echoing in the basement as a regular reminder of Yperkeina. Immediately after, below, in the breezy "undergrounds" of the woman –close to the mythical "Faneromeni" and the theological "Prosperina" - a figure talks of the powerful (even violent) function of the female identity and role, remaining inconsistent and alien to our brute, fragmented, masculine everyday life.

All these, then, are stations and lobbies for the same Road, "Polydouri Road". The poet who feels death approaching, as she sees her life floating away. And she, the woman, in the middle, remaining irreconcilable and doomed to teach the words, and with the words she is floating to the Exodus.

Since this is the "Road", I propose that we walk it some more. Even if we avoid the famous "critical error", which attributes verbs and thoughts to the creator, walk it enough to only think that she, Roula, becomes the first listener of near-death Maria, as the latter is in hospital determined "to speak even if they tie her down, " listening to "reality" through the radio, stating from “ her own sea".

Sometimes Polydouri becomes the child who asks for her mother, sometimes she herself becomes the mother of the poet. Sometimes she remembers the mistress within, sometimes she returns to the sick body where she now belongs. It is a body that wants to live forever in love and indestructible, even beyond poetry, in the perpetuity of the romantic range.

Alas. Here it is, dying today in a hospital in Kalamata, with the voice of the radio message in its ears, asking it not to lose hope: "Death makes a lot of noise in the afternoon...”

It is in fact an internal monologue, like the one of Virginia Woolf, in which once again the elements of external reality are intertwined with elements of the personal reality, a stochastic adaptation of female sensitivity to the tragic problem of the end. We also have here the same spark: thoughts and things of external reality placed disorderly, blows to the vacuum, with the internal anguish of a voice yearning to be heard and rescued by paper and memory.

This is the precious stone hidden in the teenage girl's layer, Roula, under less than thirty layers of protection: Fear and anxiety about a life that passes unsuspectingly, remaining in the unclaimed, about a world that refuses to come to order, that always remains incomprehensible and never inspires or feels love. Fear for a woman, on the other hand, who is flooded with meanings and interpretations, with verses and quotes, but remains "female," a body persecuted politically, persecuted internally by emotion, politics, the world.

It is probably the same world as that of Woolf. Roula Georgakopoulou’s theatre, fear with humor, is our elusive passport to there I believe.


[1]  I simply quote what is cited in  Roula Georgakopoulou’s, Pins in the knees, ed. Rodakio, Athens, 2015: Overnight: It was written in 1984, it was performed in 1986-1987 and continued in 1987-1988 by the troupe Mirror of Pepi Economopoulou. / Your breezy undergrounds: performed in 1992 by the troupe Mirror of Pepi Economopoulou. Written in the same year and performed in a joint show with one-act plays by Stelios Litras and Nikos Axarlis. / Prosperina: performed in 2007 by the troupe Mirror of Pepi Economopoulou titled Prosperina and the Sailor. Written in 1987. / Faneromeni: performed in 2013 by Katerina Evangelakou in the Readings of the National Theatre with Maria Zorba and the following year was transferred to the Art Theatre. It was written in 1989 and 1998, published in the 11th issue of the magazine Poetry. / Polydouri Road: Written in 2012. Performed by Thodoris Gonis in Vasilakou Theatre in 2014 with Ioanna Pappa. In 2015 the play moved to Theseion Theatre while there were some performances at the Municipal Theatre of Kavala. The play was published in issue 48 of the magazine The Book's Journal.

We must add the recent performance of the plays Overnight and Prosperina in ex Machina Theatre, directed by Sofia Philippidou, in 2015-16, and that was the reason for the above publication of the two one-acts.