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Dimiter Gotscheff: Laughter is vital for tragedy

12 July 2009 / 14:07:15  GRReporter
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Director Dimiter Gotscheff talks about the profession of the theatrical director and about his new play based on the tragedy by Aeschylus “The Persians,” which will be performed at the end of July in Epidaurus. When his colleague Heiner Müller told him that “directors are beggars, who live off of the alms of actors,” Gotscheff agreed but added that “you need to ask for something very politely, in order to receive it.” Until now, he is doing great!

You are going to present Aeschylus’ “The Persians” in Epidaurus. This is a big event, because it will take place during the Athenian Festival, where this year Sam Mendez is directing “Winter Tale,” with the participation of Ethan Hawke, “Phaedra” with Helen Mirren…

The Athens National Theatre has been inviting me for years but now I was able to accept the invitation. My condition was for my play to be performed in Epidaurus, because I have been dreaming to walk into this millennial space and to try and play in it – for me this is something exceptional. This is a space, which requires a lot from actors. I have been preparing for this meeting for quite a while. Of course, you cannot play Ibsen or Chekhov there, or you can but this space has been built for other types of plays and scripts. This is why we decided on Aeschylus and especially on “The Persians.” I have produced “The Persians” in Berlin also but this play will be nothing like the one before. The space itself requires a different vision, different decisions. It comes out that they substantially change and even enrich the concept I have been working on until now. For me, this is something exceptional.

Aeschylus’ text tells about the tragedy of the Persians after their defeat in the Battle of Salamis. I guess you have thought about some things in common with modern times. What were you thinking about when you directed it?

I thought about the same things I thought about when I directed it the first time. I mentioned that the space changes things; it demands and deepens this play. What I rediscover and concentrate on is the subject of the losers and the victims. Only one woman was playing the chorus in Berlin. Here there are seven women and seven men. This is very essential moment for me – to make the anatomy of the ones losing the war. Right now, this is what interests me, as well as with what aesthetics to show it without using any techniques. I am working only with actors and without any outer means. Only bodies and language. Another new thing is that we are including a new figure that does not exist in the original play. Something like the village idiot, clown, who comments on what happens with the victims. He is the only one, who is not involved in the war mill. The only one, who can laugh at what the politicians are doing. He is a freer figure.


At the beginning of June you played “Hamletmachine” in the Athenian National Theatre. How was it accepted by the Greek public?

I pretty much know the mentality of the Balkan public. We have visited Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece, where we played Chekhov’s “Ivanov” two years ago. I was surprised by the intensity, with which the public greeted us, even though the play was with subtitles. My colleagues told me and I felt it as well that the public experienced Müller’s text very intensely. My subjective feeling tells me that it was one of the best performances we have played. This of course is mainly thanks to the public. This surprised me pleasantly and gave me the ambition to do more.

Does that mean that you will play it again?

Yes, I have been invited.

“Hamletmachine” is a play about the socialist reality. Can people refer to it?

 I had doubts about this ever since we started the play in Berlin. I thought we are going to play it seven-eight times but now the 47th play has sold out tickets. The public and especially the younger ones, are interested, which amazed me. 2/3 of the theatre is filled with young people. It is the same here.

Müller’s Hamlet says “there is something rotten in this Hope century of ours.” Did you reveal the secret of this century of ours?

 No, I have not. We are still among the shit of this century. We are clogged and I am trying to get out of this situation.

Actually this was said regarding the previous century..

Does it matter? There is more and more dirt.

Do you believe you are doing tough theatre?

This is the rumor but what does tough mean? Is there anything easy? Of course the texts are hard. They are not only hard to understand, they are hard in general – to be faced with Müller’s text, Beckett is also heavy, Shakespeare is not easer.. There is nothing easy in theatre. Or if you can make it easy to understand that means there is something wrong with the play. (laughing)

What topics are of interest to you?

The things I am interested in are constant. Every new text is something new. With age and experience (mine and the one of the actors) we find simpler solutions.


We concentrate only on what matters – without any unnecessary playing.

How do you choose which plays to work on?

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