Last night I went to the cultural centre in Ithaca to see the dress rehearsal of an amateur show. The cultural centre is opposite the KKE office, and directly outside the door there is a plaque commemorating Byron’s visit to the island. Byron gave a great deal of money and his life for the Greek revolution that won them Independence from the Ottomans. The story goes that he arrived from the boat in a suit of armour, just for the hell of it, and got himself backlit as he went down the gangplank. His money was certainly welcome, and to give him credit he was passionate about it. He unfortunately fell sick and was bled to death by doctors trying to cure him.
I was not expecting to be able to make much of the play. And my presence in the hall was not entirely welcome – one of the actors bristled aggression towards me as he came on stage to rehearse his opening number. He strode across the stage, leading from his pelvis, mobile knees, fag in his mouth, and made a fist at me. I make out something a bit like “Inglesi” being used a few times in heated muffled discussions with the director. Nobody addressed me directly which is a shame as I would have liked to have let them know that I was not there in any way to make judgements. And that I would have been happy to leave if I was asked to, without questions. Although I wasn’t going to go unless asked. There were a fair few other people in the room watching – Tommy described it as a “general”, and I get the sense that rehearsals are always thrown open for the last week. I think his issue was just that I couldn’t speak Greek.
Some things never change about rehearsals – actors were late, the director was growing more and more frustrated, and an eight o’clock start time slowly melted into 9.30pm once all makeup was applied. The play itself appeared to be a political piece, possibly written in the early 1900’s, and dealing with a country that has got itself into dire straits – with an unlikely love story thrown in for good measure. And lots of great live music and songs – one sad song in particular was terrifically resonant. There is something extraordinary about watching a group like that – about 14 actors of all shapes, sizes, voices and ages – all singing in their own raw voices, right in front of you. To a band that included a brilliant balalaika player. It felt like the company was united in a way of thinking, and not putting this on as tonic for someone’s bad ego, as is often the case of amateur shows in England. It felt like this was motivated by a message, and by passion. And refreshingly, nobody was afraid to speak on stage. I wish I knew the name of the play – all I know is the director’s name – Pericles. It chimed to me with all the KKE stuff that I have been seeing around the island. I am leaving Ithaca thinking that – certainly in this pocket of it – Greece is close to revolution. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out over the next few years. Perhaps I need to get a suit of armour and reappear in Ithaca to support them. Although keep those bloody leeches away from me.