- Devising the Performance, Comedy Festival by Neos Kosmos Theatre
Perhaps the best way to examine theatre is through its festival networks. These networks shape trends, introduce new artists, and negotiate relationships with audiences. Apart from the few relatively recent Athenian-based events of youth theatre, the only devised theatre festival in Greece is organized by the Neos Kosmos Theatre. It opened in 2009 with Short Productions by Emerging Theatre-Makers featuring a diverse spectrum of young artists who were more or less influenced by devising practices. Its second edition in 2012, Devising the Performance, Comedy Festival, offered a platform for Greece’s devised theatre and the artistic concerns of emerging theatre-makers in these present times of crisis, making it possible for theatre-makers, theoreticians, and audiences to reflect on the aesthetic advancement of Greek devised theatre. In this most recent festival, the company featured works that clearly demonstrated its credo of “openness,” “artistic freedom,” and “collectivism.” Although the toponym “Neos Kosmos” (translated as “New World”) might strike some as trivial, this aim was realized, particularly in the show by 3+3=7.
The festival opened at the company’s two smaller stages, Kato Choros (a black box) and Doma (a sun-drenched loft), thus departing from the semiotics of visual theatre and the preoccupations of spectacular culture. Both stages offered an intimacy conducive to the competitive aspect of the festival that highlights the aesthetic means of emerging theatre-makers and their performances. Since 2009, the festival has served as a platform for emerging theatre artists without support from either government or other sponsors and who lack a permanent venue for their work. Neos Kosmos Theatre provides these groups with rehearsal facilities, seminars with experts, and discussions with a committed organizing committee. The festival is competitive, offering opportunities for distinction. A jury of seven selects the “most noteworthy” production that Neos Kosmos will feature in the following winter season’s repertory. The 2012 program featured fourteen emerging theatre groups whose task was to devise a show inspired by the present sociopolitical situation using a range of comedic forms. During the festival, each group presented its show three times on the same stage. In addition, the festival included ancillary events for all participants, held months in advance, such as workshops on comedy. Also required beforehand, seemingly to the consternation of the inexperienced theatre-makers, was a research statement to edit and discuss periodically with the organizing committee. This self-referential tool was meant to map [End Page 120] each group’s devising methodology, narrative and artistic sources, and preliminary consideration of the act of performance and audience expectations in the course of developing its work.
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Not surprisingly, this year’s festival focused on the present sociopolitical situation of the country, and it would have been hard not to read the shows in light of the bruised Greek identity amid the problems facing the country. However, a large number of groups did not attempt to rescue the country’s collective memory, nor did they focus on issues of Greek identity recurrent in many professional theatrical performances recently. While unemployment, over-qualification among young job-seekers, working conditions, public demonstrations against austerity measures, and political corruption were the subject of about half of the shows, others did not focus overtly on contemporary politics or the public sphere, but rather thematized the private one. Individual performances suggested an urgency to address the topical (sometimes also the stereotypical) and to acknowledge private concerns, as some participants confessed when asked: for example, noncommunication among peers, family problems, problematic heterosexual relationships, gay culture, and undefined dystopias. Whether this reflected a younger generation’s inability to feel for the collective or to identify with the political, it certainly addressed its aspirations and frustrations.
Accordingly, shows like Monday by Ω, Find the Gap by RUN, and Used Words by On the Rocks disregarded the festival’s requirement of addressing current politics. By contrast, the show New World by 3...