Epidaurus -the classic venue of Greek Tragedy- is supposed to epitomise the locum of Theatre – not only Greek but also universal. The Bridge Project last year ended at Epidaurus. I had seen the Cherry Orchard -part of last year’s Bridge Project – at the Old Vic last summer ( Sam Mendes with a transantlantic theatre company -Ethan Hawke amongst them) and I felt a great joy when I learnt that the same play was about to be presented in the theatre of Epidaurus later in the same summer. ‘This is where they can all meet up’ , I thought, ‘Old venue, classic plays, universal theatre, modern times, enthousiastic audience, universal theatrical language….the birthplace of theatre can still matter’. I don’t think that I stand alone on that. Caro Newling (producer with whom Sam Mendes has been working since 2003) found last year’s experience at Epidaurus quite moving:
“The greatest moment at Epidaurus was when we said, ‘What time do we start the show?’ And they said, ‘When the sun drops behind the mountains’. So Sam [Mendes] and I sat in the technical box with everyone waiting to go. And it was the most moving thing. Normally you count the cue down but instead of that we said, ‘OK. We’re watching the sun, we’re watching the sun, we’re watching the sun…..It’s gone. Go’” (from FT Weekend 19-20 June 2010).
I personally do not want to see such performances disappear from the Epidaurian summer. If the Sun can still dictate the opening time for classic plays -in the way described above- then let’s keep such festivals alive. I hope that Mendes is wrong when he says that ‘the Greek government pulled the funding and the festival just disappeared‘, referring to this year’s plans to end the tours again at Epidaurus. Will such events be sacrificed in the name of financial need/crisis?
I really hope that the Greek cultural diplomacy will make an effort to treat Epidaurus as the epitome of the cosmopolitan Theatre by inviting various productions and plays. This shouldn’t remain a dream, this should become the focus of an effective Cultural Marketing in Greece especially now.