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Report: Avignon theatre festival 2014

Vitrioli - violence and desperation in devastated Greece

Vitrioli directed by Olivier Py
Vitrioli directed by Olivier Py (c) Marilena Stafylidou

Vitrioli, in Greek by Greek-Canadian Yannis Mavritsakis, is directed by Olivier Py, who heads the Avignon Festival for the first time this year.

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It’s the second of his three plays, the third one is for children.

This one probably, is not.

Py directs a team of Greek actors whom he describes as “heroes”.

The play premiered in Athens last year against a backdrop of what Py calls “violence and desperation”.

The audience is divided into two, as if they were watching a match taking place in a sort of wrestling ring (a rectangular one) laid with black clay.

Surtitles above the stands detract from the I’m-looking-at-you-looking-at-me effect, which must have made this play even more disturbing for Greek spectators.

Vitrioli starts off as it means to go on. Darkly, with an excorcism.

And it ends badly.

Vitrioli is physical.

It is the story of a young man with his desperate mother and girlfriend who try to help him.

The largely sinister male characters hovering around and on top of him create a tremendous sense of present and impending horror.

The sound design, the black clay-covered stage area and basic props, plus masking tape, convey the message that a lot is rotten in Greece today, especially, if not only, for youth.

It’s a dark play, inside and out, centred on the loss of a generation in a country devastated economically and confused politically.

Vitrioli is a disturbingly bleak and (literally) black production.

And if you don’t understand Greek, the emotion in front of you makes the surtitles virtually disappear.

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