“Helen” by Euripides
Translated by: Pantelis Boukalas
Directed by: Vassilis Papavassiliou
ΟPENING: Forest (Dasous) Theatre, 14 & 15 July 2022
ATHENS & EPIDAURUS FESTIVAL
Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, 12 & 13 August 2022
With Greek and English surtitles
TOUR: July-September 2022
The National Theatre of Northern Greece presents Euripides’ "Helen” on 14 & 15 July 2022 at Forest (Dasous) Theatre. “Helen” will also tour cities around Greece. On 12 &13 August it will be presented at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus as part of the Athens Epidaurus Festival 2022.
The production, directed by Vassilis Papavassiliou and translated into modern Greek by Pantelis Boukalas, is a colourful celebration of Peace which uses emotion and humour to demonstrate the futility of war, whose consequences are as devastating for the victors as they are for the vanquished.
The production received rave reviews last summer wherever it was performed, but its scheduled performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus had to be cancelled, due to the devastating fires then rocking the country.
“Helen” sets the tone for the new NTNG repertory which is currently in preparation, as well as being perfectly in tune with the situation prevailing in the world today, sending out a powerful message of unity and solidarity.
“I am truly fortunate to have found this production waiting for me as I stepped into my new role. Our repertory is underpinned by a specific vision and goal, and “Helen” is part of the message we seek to send out”, notes Asteris Peltekis, the Artistic Director of the NTNG.
As he writes of Helen, Herodotus expresses the opinion that she did indeed go to Egypt and that Homer says as much in the “Odyssey”, in which he has Helen offer Telemachus the drug of forgetfulness; she got the potion from Polydamna, Thoonas’ wife, though not in the circumstances described by Euripides.
Herodotus and Homer both write that, after the fall of Troy, Helen wandered along with Menelaus, and that they acquired the medicine when they arrived in Egypt. Euripides presents another argument: that Helen never went to Troy; only her eidolon did. Because Hermes abducted her on Hera’s bidding and delivered her to Proteus, king of Egypt, to protect. And when Proteus died, his son Theoclymenus sought to marry her, but Helen went and stood as a suppliant beside Proteus’ tomb. There, Menelaus appears before her; having been shipwrecked, he is trying to save his few remaining companions, who he has left hidden in a cave. The two confer, hatch a plan, and succeed in deceiving Theoclymenus. They board a ship, supposedly to celebrate a sacrifice at sea in Menelaus’ memory, but actually return home; they are saved.
The 5th century BC is about to end. And with it, the “Golden Age” of the “glorious city”. Athens is nearing the end of the journey that has taken the city from its foundational victories over the Persians at Marathon and Salamis to the radiance of the age of Pericles and from there to the Peloponnesian War, the deadly plague and the Sicilian disaster—the rotten fruit of Alcibiades’ slick oratory.
Just as there are three periods in the history of Athens, so there are three great tragic poets—Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides—who correspond to them. Thus, the first participated in and was inspired by the first period, which extends from the glorious victories through to the consolidation of the democratic state; the second walked in step with Pericles and the glorious achievements of his time. And the third? Euripides? He bore witness to, and engaged with, an era that saw every value rendered relative. If you like, he was the tragic partner of the Sophist revolution.
Euripides wrote “Helen”, an anti-tragic tragedy or comic tragedy, if you will, on the eve of the Sicilian debacle. It is no coincidence that just a few years earlier, the Sicilian sophist Gorgias has left the Athenian public speechless with his text “In praise of Helen”. He is the third and most bitter, after Stesichorus and Herodotus, to relate in his own manner how the idea of the Greeks, or rather their union, was born of the 'eidolon' or simulacrum of a woman; that the Greeks were united thanks to “an empty shirt” as one of our contemporary poets writes; to “a Helen”.
"I didn't go to Troy, only my name did", says Helen. All wars need to polish up a pretext if they are to catch alight and blaze. Whether the target is a Troy or a Sicily, the mechanism of invasion always needs “an empty shirt”, “a Helen”—a name rechristened a motive—to get fired up. The results are inevitably comical.
So, Helen. Another one. After the one and only that Homer left us, the Helens of the above poets, historians and orators. And there are still more, later ones, to come, conjured up by Isocrates, Ronsard, Goethe, Offenbach, Giraudoux, Ritsos and others, so many others. Numberless, and then some more.
Translated by: Pantelis Boukalas, Directed by: Vassilis Papavassiliou, Collaborating director-Dramaturgy: Nikoleta Filosoglou, Set and costume design: Angelos Mentis, Musical composition: Angelos Triantafyllou, Choreography: Dimitris Sotiriou, Lighting design: Lefteris Pavlopoulos, Orchestration-Musical coaching: Giorgos Dousos, Musical coaching: Chrysa Toumanidou, Assistant to the director: Anna-Maria Iakovou, Assistant to the set and costume designer: Elli Nalmpanti, Assistant to the choreographer: Sofia Papanikandrou, Production coordinator: Athanasia Androni
Cast: Emily Koliandri (Helen), Themis Panou (Menelaus), Agoritsa Oikonomou (Theonoe), Giorgos Kafkas (Theoclymenus), Efi Stamouli (Old Woman), Dimitris Kolovos (First Messenger), Angelos Bouras, (Second Messenger), Dimitris Morfakidis (Teucer), Panagiotis Papaioannou, (Attendant) Nikolas Maragopoulos, Orestis Paliadelis (Dioscuri)
Chorus: Nefeli Anthopoulou, Stavroula Arampatzoglou, Eleni Giannousi, Electra Goniadou, Natassa Daliaka, Sofia Kalemkeridou, Aigli Katsiki, Anna Kyriakidou, Katerina Plexida, Marianna Pourega, Foteini Timotheou, Chrysa Toumanidou, Loukia Vasileiou, Momo Vlachou, Chrysa Zafeiriadou
Musicians on stage: Giorgos Dousos (flute, clarinet, saxophone, kaval), Danis Koumartzis (double bass), Thomas Kostoulas (percussion), Pavlos Metsios (trumpet, electric guitar), Charis Papathanasiou (violin), Manolis Stamatiadis (piano, accordion)