Elena D. Hadziioannou – "Ta Nea" newspaper, 3 June 2008
A balanced and expressive creation that remains true to Papaioannou’s style. Black and white in palette and more austere than the first, youthful Edafos Dance Theatre version, the show is more intellectual, better developed and less sentimental; the changes are imperceptible, and more has been taken away than added.
Vassilis Angelikopoulos – "Kathimerini" newspaper, 3 June 2008
The first thing one notes is the abstraction […].
Stripped of almost all that was cursory or demonstrative, the movement has been made more effective, dramatic and incisive. The overarching aesthetic of Papaioannou’s new MEDEA is more austere, spare and acute – and that is why it cuts to the quick. There are some truly astounding scenes […].
Papaioannou has found ideal performers to fill the show’s roles – something to be particularly commended when one remembers that it was Angeliki Stellatou and he himself who played Medea and Jason in the original version. Evangelia Randou is an exquisite creature, at once demonic and divine – a Medea never to be forgotten. And Yiannis Nikolaidis is a performer of great calibre, ability, and inward intensity. Stark naked, the young pair offers up a love scene of uncommon beauty […].
Eugenia Tzirtzilaki – “EF” free press, 5 June 2008
In a recent interview, Dimitris Papaioannou said that he has new nothing to say about the story itself, and so is concentrating instead on clarifying his narrative solutions as much as possible. That is not quite accurate: for the way in which you tell a story is the way in which you understand it. You translate as you narrate, revealing in the process what you see to be the story’s essence. The narrative is the story. The form is the content. Otherwise court cases would call upon just one witness, and no one would have concerned themselves with Medea after Euripides.
As light alternates with dark in Medea’s inward worlds and her savage self growls on all fours, as she and Jason couple with primal force beside the dismembered body of her brother, when the jolt to little Glauce’s private parts knocks the crown off her head, as the betrayed and emotionally raw Medea passes from denial to grief and from there to anger, when she smashes the remnants of her union with Jason and departs more lifeless than him, it is not simply a story being told. As the ancients knew, the story itself is not all that important. This explains why Euripides sent a chariot round the city announcing exactly what he was to present on stage, allowing audiences to decide whether to take their places in the theatre or not. And why MEDEA(2), downstage and in its first three minutes, shows us exactly what is to come.
You go to the theatre not to see a story, but to examine life beneath the surface of the day-to-day – its core meaning. Just like Euripides’ Medea, the work of Papaioannou unfurls like toothpaste: the tube is squeezed and each scene naturally and inescapably pushes the next into being. It is the same in life: however amazed I am by something, however much my experiences make me laugh or give me a frisson, in reality I know what is coming next. Because what comes next is determined by a robust chain of reasoning and an affective logic that conform to the laws of nature. It is not suspense that takes my breath away.
Not so much as a cough was heard in the packed Athens Festival auditorium for an altogether different reason: the Doric austerity that marks the harmonious union between the inward and outward action. The vertical cross-sections that dissect the story, where the depth of a single moment can be explored ad infinitum (in other words, that which in Euripides is undertaken by the chorus), went hand-in-hand with the horizontal flow of the events. And the turns of the chorus were so well measured – rhythmically, melodically and structurally – that nothing could be lacking. The excellent, prudent use of the dramatic, and of a human scale devoid of any excess or ostentation, liberated performers and audiences alike. I saw people on stage with their teeth sunk into the very heart of the matter at hand, wired into every moment of the here and now, free to exist uniquely within their symbolic frameworks. And I sensed the members of the audience (myself included) existentially relieved, our innards gripped by strands of meaning and truth, by a penetratingly brilliant dialogue with the stage. MEDEA(2) begged to be interpreted, its action could not unfold without my presence, and the interpretation of my neighbour was slightly different from mine. And all because this achievement was alive and alert, unadulterated by cheap cleverness or facile beauty.
From the costumes to the music, from Aris Servetalis, Evangelia Randou and Yiannis Nikolaidis to each and every handsome sailor, from the Tsarouchis-inspired images to the moments of rock intensity, from the pockets of pure silence to the explosions, everything was in its right place, in season and in bloom. How wonderful!
Iliana Dimadi – “Athinorama” magazine, 27 November 2008
[…] MEDEA(2) is a work of art borne of a highly aesthetic vision that sweeps audiences up into an unprecedented dream-like universe, filling them with the desire to dive right in with child-like zeal. The show plays freely with the Medea myth, illustrating it with clinical precision and in a descriptive, linear fashion. Visual references are drawn from a bottomless melting pot of symbols, ideas and associations: the dancers’ bodies are reminiscent of Archaic sculptures brought to life; the figure of Medea is by turns a sphinx, the Minoan Goddess of the Snakes, Medusa, a bat; Jason is at once a marionette made elegant, a sailor straight out of a Tsarouchis painting, and Corto Maltese; Glauce is both Lolita and Bambi, a Degas ballerina and a Japanese manga character. In an setting that seeks to beautify any possible blemish, the poetic power of the images rules supreme, and the show’s structural elements slot harmoniously together to serve an overarching purpose: absolute, monumental, epic beauty. […]
With MEDEA(2), Dimitris Papaioannou stretches the boundaries of silent storytelling, illuminating the myth’s socio-political underbelly with the lucidity of his dance theatre narrative. To paraphrase the words of Heiner Müller on the theatre of Robert Wilson, one might say that Dimitris Papaioannou uses the wisdom of fairy tales to articulate the issues of our times: wars of class and of race, wars between species and between the genders – civil war in every possible sense of the term. Evangelia Randou (Medea) encapsulates this civil war, and all its history, on stage: a creature brought from elsewhere, from beyond the familiar and the human, she victimises and falls victim to powers that go beyond her self – her rage is transcendent. With a bestial coldness of heart and an icy magnificence, this 31-year-old performer captures the nature and stature of the self-exiled Medea, who would go on to dismember her brother (as shown in a scene downstage), murder her children (the shattering of two plaster puppets), and snatch from Jason the light of the sun (the finale, with the shining light bulb smashing over the head of the arrogant Argonaut). […]
Kostas Georgoussopoulos – “Ta Nea” newspaper, 21 June 2008
The “Unconsumed Bush”
Dimitris Papaioannou studied at the Athens School of Fine Art, trained alongside Yannis Tsarouchis, and first entered the creative arena as a charismatic creator of comic books.
All this is now well known thanks to the broader recognition he gained with his ingenious opening ceremony for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Up until then, he was an electrifying figure known only to the initiated, the select, the few. Medea (1993) was his crowning achievement – the pinnacle of the transposition of his talents into the realm of dance, if that which he has created can be described as having anything to do with what habit, tradition and even modernism conceives as dance. It is expected that comic book artists will at some point turn their hand to animation, and Papaioannou is no exception. But a painter-cum-comic book artist, a designer intensely imbued with an architectural sense of structure, is, truth be told, a rare phenomenon in the arts. He is internationally unique bar the genius that is Robert Wilson, who began his career as an architect. I am of the opinion that Papaioannou has modelled himself upon that renaissance-style artist, not in order to imitate him, as some bitter and mean-spirited whispering would have us believe, but because he found in his work that rare balance of elements, an “arrangement of the incidents” in the words of Aristotle, which led him to surmount the splintering of the arts that occurred in Europe at a certain stage and to attempt, as does Wilson and often with extraordinary results, a new combination of the image, song, the imitation of action, dance, and – by means of visual symbols – the ethos and rationale behind human activity. Opera also attempted this, but instead of reviving the tragic medium, it produced a hybrid that developed into an autonomous and independent art form.
Classical ballet attempted this too, but the absolute formalism of its coded stylistic vocabulary transformed it into a wonderful world of dense abstract symbols.
And dance theatre, in turn, attempted it from the time of Duncan, Kreutzberg and Wigman, and of course of Graham and Robbins and so many others. Here in Greece, under the protective maternal wing of Koula Pratsika, were hatched the works of Rallou Manou, Zouzou Nikoloudi, and Sofia Spyratou’s “Roes Dance Theatre” company, the longest-standing group of recent years. Our generation was brought up on the dance theatre works of Manou who inspired composers such as Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, Theodore Antoniou, Nino Rota, Yorgos Tsangaris and George Kouroupos to compose for her company. And the charismatic figure that was Nikoloudi (with her “Chorika” dance troupe), like Manou, worked with visual artists such as Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Spyros Vassiliou, Yorgos Mavroidis, Yiannis Moralis and, of course, Yannis Tsarouchis, that eminent artist of genius who combined painting, theatre, popular iconography and deep proverbial thought. Out of the workshop of Moralis, Tsarouchis and Nikoloudi, out of the aura of architects Dimitris Pikionis and Aris Konstantinidis came Papaioannou – and he, in the spirit of noble emulation, autonomously and independently undertakes the experiments of Wilson.
I believe Medea was revived after fifteen years for two tantalising reasons: first, to monumentalise and to impart a mythic dimension of longevity and substance to a work that has clearly not succumbed to the attritional whims of fashion and the aesthetic of the moment, and is instead genuinely modern to its core. And second, to lead the artist Papaioannou back down the path of an austere art that won over, and caused as stir amongst devotees and initiates in the past, and with which he can now, thanks to his popularity, attempt to stir up other stagnant waters – one could even say mires – addicted to inpourings of sullage.
And Papaioannou has achieved both these objectives. His Medea has not only well-endured the passage of time, it has also proven itself to be ahead of its time, a sign ofwhat is to come, a model of live spectacle that opens rifts in the art of dance theatre and prepares the ground, if people are sensitive enough to pick up the tremors, for more inspiring experiences in the future. No-one can be naive from here on in, or unprepared; no-one oblivious, or “smart-alecky.” The veneer, dance used as a garnish, has been stripped back – faux-modernism and post-modern nonsense are out.
Sacrificer and Sacrificial Victim
Papaioannou tells the story of the eternal Medea, which is in fact nothing more than the story of each and every woman betrayed, who offers up everything – body and soul – to the marital altar when love strikes her and who, once betrayed, has no other weapon to hand, no choice but to turn this altar into a slaughterhouse, in which she is both sacrificer and sacrificial victim.
The manner in which Papaioannou visualises and visually versifies the depression and manic-depression of the betrayed Medea in the masterful scene with the chairs shows that filicide is a reversion, an emesis of the male sperm, a rejection, an abortion, a way out of the nightmare, out of the betrayed dream, out of the illusion that is the supposed mutual enjoyment of the pleasure of the climax.
Just as Papaioannou’s Medea litters the stage with the pieces of her brother Apsyrtus, breaking her links with her lineage in order to savour, and surrender herself to love, thus she dismembers her children, symbolically castrating the betrayer of her love. This myth, in this form, touches us, astounds us, keeps us constantly in suspense.
My purpose here is not to critique the work. Other specialists will discuss, and have indeed discussed the realisation of the stage action, Papaioannou’s team, the musical setting and the specifics of the creative results. I am talking about a fellow Greek who honours, loves and respects me, who offers himself up, heart and soul, with all his overflowing talent and the wealth of his inspiration, and transforms me into a sensitive receiver of secret messages, of simple and thus fundamental ideas wrapped in the rhetoric of myth, the persuasiveness of logic and the hunger of desire, and dipped in the font of deep collective memory. Papaioannou’s art is, as Odysseus Elytis would say, an “unconsumed bush.”
Mirka Dimitriadi-Psaropoulou – “Eleftherotypia” newspaper, 17 June 2008
Unlike most talented artists, Dimitris Papaioannou polishes his talents through hard work. He diligently hones the subject of his attentions until it takes satisfactory form. And if he is to present a work again, he develops it afresh in the light of his latest experiences. His secret can be summed up in three words: work, work, work… He is a master craftsman of spectacle. He strives for clarity of expression until he senses the emotionality spring from this immediacy. He offers us his works wrapped in the velvet of aesthetic beauty […].
History repeats itself, Papaioannou does not. And this year, at the Athens Festival, his MEDEA achieved its most perfect expression […].
Vena Georgakopoulou – “Eleftherotypia” newspaper, 3 June 2008
MEDEA(2) is indeed a masterpiece. The first Medea, the one we saw in 1993 before it was raised to the power of two, was likely a masterpiece too. But because many years have passed since then, little had remained in my memory [...].
I remember much more as of two days ago, of course. In fact, I cannot stop thinking about it. Charmed (Evangelia Randou, who plays Medea, is a magnificent creature), I feel proud to be Greek (the show is set to tour internationally). But I also have my concerns. [...]
It is flawless and beautiful to such a degree that it feels alien and remote.