Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I was told once that there are more theatres in Athens than in London (or have I already said this?) Not exactly the houses as in Shaftsbury Avenue or the likes of The Palladium, Prince of Wales, New London, but mostly what in London would be called fringe, or in NY Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, in other words acting spaces, so when I see in athinorama, the magazine which I suppose is the equivalent of “Time Out” that there are something like 250 events happening in a week: plays, musicals, opera, dance, puppets, children’s theatre, concerts, I can quite believe it. Add to this clubs with cabaret, restaurants of which there are many, some with live music, could Athens be the cultural capital of the world? Not all the events are weekly, some play just two nights a week for example. But add to this the museums and sites of architectural interest and Athens really must be the cultural capital at least of the European world. There are 45 museums and sites and more round and about such as Corinth, Delphi, Epidavros. The rest of Greece, including the islands, doesn’t fall too far behind in the culture stakes which is hardly surprising when one considers hitherto unknown sites being uncovered all the time.
But, despite the number of theatres and the amount of play going, Greek theatre is run in a very strange fashion, that is, production seems to progress in the most haphazard fashion and, if it is felt a play is not ready by its advertised opening night they simply put it off until it is. This seems to occur with some frequency. Stage management is almost unheard of, finance is not always forthcoming (but what’s new there?) and quite often producers it would seem don’t really know their arses from their elbows and this in the land that gave us the great plays of classical Greece, but then a performance that takes place in daylight in an open air theatre and not requiring scenery does not present the problems to be solved in a space so many metres by so many metres with an acting area the size of a matchbox, especially as Greeks never seem to think things out logically, again rather weird considering their past. For example a little open air auditorium has been built in the park here in Vamos and instead of building it so the audience would sit with their backs to the road close by, they have built it totally the wrong way round and have had to put up a screen to try and rectify their mistake. It’s not all like that though, there are magnificent buildings for music, there are good theatre buildings and the new Acropolis museum I’ve mentioned previously is an absolute architectural masterpiece worth visiting for the building alone let alone what is going to be in it.

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