‘It impacts all Greeks’: Maria Bakalidou ahead of ‘Twenty Two’ play in Melbourne

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“One night we were citizens in our homeland and the next day we were refugees begging” – This phrase draws people’s attention from the description of the upcoming theatre performance Twenty Two on Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23, at Melbourne’s Clayton Community Centre.

The team of the Creative Drama & Arts Centre of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) is bringing Twenty Two to Melbourne for the second time.

It focuses on 1922, a year that constituted a historic landmark in Greeks’ collective consciousness from the tremendous effects of the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Turkish-Greek War.

The play will bring together sorrow songs, refugee testimonies, and extracts from two books and a play to take the audience on a journey from the peaceful Greek Asian Minor homes and shops in the early 1920s to an Athenian refugee shack in the mid-1950s. 

For the first time, the play will be performed in Greek with English live-captions and has been enriched with additional acts and performers including the well-known Greek Australian actor Antonios Baxevanidis. 

Ahead of this weekend’s performance, The Greek Herald spoke with the actress and the Coordinator of the GCM’s Greek Language and Culture Schools, Maria Bakalidou. This is what she had to say.

Twenty Two theater play

Why did you decide to join the show? Tell us about your role, the preparations and the efforts of everyone involved.

I have been involved in the theater group of the Greek Community of Melbourne since it was created in 2015. Over the years we have staged various plays. This particular project came because of the 100-year anniversary of the Asia Minor Disaster that we celebrated last year. We considered that this is a very important historical event that changed the history of Modern Greece. A topic that concerns everyone, even today. So, we decided that as a group, we would also like to “say” something here in diaspora about Mikrasia.

Apart from Mr. Antonis Baxevanidis, who is a professional actor, all other participants are amateurs who do theater as a hobby. This means that we go to rehearsals after our morning job and all our other obligations. This particular project was quite demanding and required many hours of rehearsal and preparation. However, despite the fatigue, it does not cease to be a very creative and enjoyable activity that develops us as individuals, as members of a group and as a community.

Twenty Two

Tell us about the team at the Creative Drama & Arts Centre of the GCM. How important is the voluntary participation of those who create and perform theater for the community?

The adult theater group of The Creative Drama & Arts Centre of the Greek Community of Melbourne was created 8 years ago and arose from the need of some newly arrived Greeks for creative expression but also for a different suggestion in the artistic events of the parish. Over the years we have staged 6 plays and were lucky enough to be guided by very remarkable and talented directors. I think it’s a fresh, alternative, experimental scene that has a lot to offer to the public in Melbourne and beyond.

What should those who come to this show expect to see? Are different expressive tools used to approach the traumatic stories of Asia Minor refugees over the years?

In this particular show, testimonies from people who lived in Mikrasia are presented. The viewer will have the opportunity to watch snapshots of life before the Catastrophe some moments of the Catastrophe, but also after, the escape from Smyrna, the refugee, the adaptation to the new homeland, Greece, and all the difficulties and adversities refugees faced. Through real testimonies as well as theatrical texts, the pain of ‘xerizomos’ is shown, an ever-present feeling that concerns us all.

The poster of Twenty Two

All this, of course, is given with the imagination and talent of our excellent director, Mr. Ieremias Artis, who has utilized all the creative possibilities offered by the theater to convey strong emotions to the spectators, who, “through mercy and fear finally reach katharsis.”

How close are the Greeks of Melbourne to the art of theatre? Are there ways to bring the youth even closer to this and what should be done to encourage this relationship?

Theater was born in Greece and is an art that I believe touches all Greeks. As far as I know, there are 4 or 5 theater groups in Melbourne that occasionally put on various plays in Greek, thus giving the Greeks of diaspora the opportunity to attend theatre.

I think that we can and that we have a duty to reach out to young people, to bring the new generation closer to this beautiful art. The topics, the way they are presented, the language, the venues as well as the days and times of the performances should take this audience into serious consideration.

In “Twenty Two”, for the first time, we have decided to have English supertitles, as a first effort to expand our audience.

INFO

Director: Jeremy Artis 
Cast: Antonios Baxevanidis, Athina Giannou, Giannis Lyris, Jeremy Artis, Ioanna Kothroula, Lemonia Shoina, Maria Bakalidou, Nicky Skouri, Pam Pollalis, Panos Apostolou, Syrmo Kapoutsi
Date: Saturday, 22 April, 7:30pm / Sunday, 23 April, 5:30pm
Clayton Community Centre | 9/15 Cooke Street Clayton VIC 3168
Tickets: $25 / Book here: (03) 9662 2722

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