Gerasimos Gennatas as Antonin Artaud in the play Kokkalo, directed by Ioli Andreadi, at the Karolos Koun Art Theater Basement in Athens. Photo: Kiki Papadopoulou
ATHENS – Director Ioli Andreadi presents, at the Karolos Koun Art Theater Basement in Athens, the play Kokkalo (Bone) about the life and work of Antonin Artaud, the French writer, poet, dramatist, visual artist, essayist, actor and theatre director, widely recognized as one of the major figures of 20th century theatre and the European avant-garde, known for his raw, surreal, and transgressive themes. The play premiered on February 21 and runs on Mondays and Tuesdays through April 12.
This heartbreaking rock ritual, written by Andreadi and Aris Asproulis, features the groundbreaking and unique Antonin Artaud, this “emergency” of life and art as Heiner Müller described him, as he returns to the stage for the last time, giving the performance of his life. Gerasimos Gennatas, passionate, inspired, sad and in love with a pantomime clown, embodies the great Artaud with the live contribution of the musician-performer Giorgos Palamiotis. They lead the viewer from a deep, personal darkness of pain, injustice and hypocrisy to the pure and redemptive light, where the Great Law of the Heart reigns.
In Paris 1935, Artaud invents a completely new theatrical form, the Theater of Cruelty, and to put it into practice he creates the play The Cenci – a five-act tragedy, about the infamous, bloodthirsty Count Cenci of Rome who was found murdered, with a dagger in the eye, by his underage daughter. The play premiered in May of that year at the Folies Wagram Theater and despite expectations failed miserably. Artaud decides that he will never direct again, travels incessantly in search of redemption and in the end is arrested for vagrancy. In 1938, he was officially declared “insane” and was forcibly taken to a psychiatric hospital, where he would remain for nine years. In the last year alone, he was subjected to more than 51 electric shocks. There he acquires the obsession that they come in his sleep and poison his dreams by doing magic, there he falls into a coma and luckily wakes up when he is taken to the morgue, and there the famous psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan says in triumph that “finally Mr. Artaud was healed and he will not have to rewrite anything anymore.”
In 1946 and shortly before his death, he regained his freedom of movement, having, however, suffered irreparable damage from the official methods of treatment. “Friends of Antonin Artaud” organize a special night dedicated to his work at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater, but he was not allowed to enter, due to the fear caused by his weakened figure and the possibility of another ferocious outburst, as usual in front of an audience and from which he calmed down only if a friend of his kissed him on the forehead. The man they gathered to honor stands alone outside the closed doors, while the good society of Paris enjoys the readings of his texts.
Disappointed by this incident, Artaud denies his freedom and voluntarily returns to his cell, deciding to awaken his expressive means to transform himself into the most virtuoso performer and give one last solo, an outburst, in front of a non-judgmental audience. An audience he will create with his mind. An audience born to love him.
Isolated in the asylum, Artaud sets up the old scene of the “failed” Cenci from the beginning, brings his soul to the forefront, strips it down, and sings it with passion and mastery. In a dreamy landscape of memory and with the rhythm of music, he follows the descent into a deep and unspeakable confession. Artist, genius, revolutionary, revisionist, poet, teacher, delusional, aggressive, epileptic, self-destructive and deeply, deeply in love and romantic, he composes in a provocative way his final verdict against the modern decency, sticking out his tongue at the concocted authorities of our time and restoring the Theater of Cruelty to its rightful place: in the fiery hearts of the rebels.
With Kokkalo, playwrights Ioli Andreadi and Aris Asproulis complete their trilogy on the work of Antonin Artaud which began with Artaud / Van Gogh, avec un pistolet at the Simeio Theater in 2015 with Ioannis Papazisis in the role of Antonin Artaud, and Cenci Family at the Michalis Kakogiannis Foundation in 2016 with Miltiadis Fiorentzis as Count Cenci, Eleana Kafkala as the Joker, and Maria Proistaki as Beatrice. The aesthetic environment of Kokkalo, following the path of Artaud’s life, is in direct dialogue with the two previous productions.
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