The others

By Harry van Versendaal

The Aristophanic word folds, stretches, groans, it’s made contemporary: “The thieves roam free,” declares the fustanella-wearing man with the mohawk hairdo from the orchestra.

It was Saturday night and over 10,000 people had swarmed to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus to watch the National Theater of Northern Greece’s production of “The Acharnians,” directed by Sotiris Hadzakis. In a rather predictable twist, it’s not Stamatis Kraounakis playing the character of Dikaiopolis, but, rather the other way around. From an Athenian farmer, spent and fed-up with the Peloponnesian War, Aristophanes’ hero is transformed into a harried modern-day Greek who’s pissed off at the decline of the left-wing movement, the rotten politicos who govern us, the fiscal straitjacket of the IMF.

Chicken thieves, wannabes, criminals, tax dodgers, pissant MPs, managers of the big debt business… those responsible for the death of a country, the killers roam free.”

Free they may be, but they certainly were not among the audience at Epidaurus, which endorsed en masse the ranting of the exuberant protagonist, again and again, with thundering applause. Flattered and vindicated, the audience succumbs and is enraptured as the troupe resorts to one of the most favored ploys of the suit-clad enemy: populism.

The time has come to tell it to their face: This is the country of poets… Don’t let go of your poets, Greece. Most importantly, don’t let go of your poet of comedy for it is our moral blueprint, the only independent authority that tells the truth; it is the spirit of the truth. Comedy, satire, real steamrollers that crush every skunk, coward and scoundrel,” promises Lamachus (played by Grigoris Valtinos), in yet another parabasis.

The audience at Epidaurus was moved and got to its feet once more when the Chorus held up photographs of poets, heroes of the Greek Revolution and, most prominently, one of Grigorios Lambrakis holding a banner with the word HELLAS printed in capitals and surrounded by peace signs.

The protagonist howls about justice that was never meted out. “I don’t want to name names at the theater. People talk about them at home. Those responsible need to pay.” “Hallelujah!”, says a female voice in the audience.

How we love it, how we clap our hands when we’re told that others are to blame for our problems, our wretched state – not us.

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