By Alix Norman
New Year: we’re supposed to be feeling full of determination, efficiently reviewing the past twelve months, resolving all our issues and marching boldly into a fortuitous future. And yet, in actuality, we’re probably all feeling as deflated as the party balloons still languishing behind the couch. But there is, thankfully, the perfect remedy for the January blues in the offing, in the shape of The Stone, an amusing and thought provoking play by world-renowned playwright Marius Von Mayenburg.
Directed by Athena Xenidou, one of Cyprus’ most accomplished directors (whose previous works include highly successful runs of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body), The Stone is a complex, non-linear voyage of discovery centring on the myths and lies perpetuated through the generations of one family. Set entirely in one room of a single Dresden house, the plot switches between five time periods and encompasses the fable built up around the titular stone which was, according to family legend, hurled at a member of the family for aiding escaping Jews. And yet, as the story progresses, the audience discovers that all is not as it first seems, and that in this case the notion of familial heroism is, perhaps, false.
As moral, legal and practical issues are explored through the richness of character and plot dynamic, the family’s worldly desire for property impacts their failure to put the past behind them, and the audience is confronted with guilt and repression as their long-cherished family legend starts to fall apart.
“It’s an extraordinary work,” says Athena, who has been rehearsing the play with cast for the last few months. “It brings history into the present through collage, using the changes of time to create two parallel spaces: the realistic space of the scene we are watching and the conceptual space of the house in which the layers of time materialise in the present.” And it’s this chronological juxtaposition which allows the audience to observe, simultaneously, the characters’ past and future, and play witness to the genesis of the web of lies.
“At the heart of The Stone is the family,” Athena explains. “Family memory and the dynamics between three generations; the way in which the women of a family are often left behind after a war to tell the stories, to pass on and hand down the family histories.” And though the play is noted for exploring the contemporary relevance of conflicts in German history, there are several interesting parallels that can be drawn with our own recent past, it seems: “The elements of war, dispossession and emigration, division of the country and loss of property will no doubt strike a provocative note with many of the Cypriot people… The audience will be going through a journey of discovering the truth, just like the granddaughter in the play,” she adds, “identifying with the mystery and the conflict that exist in every family.”
And it’s a story that will be brought to life by an exceptional cast of actors, admirably professional despite the fact that they’re working within the constraints of a plot that does not allow for any set or costume changes: “It’s a dream cast,” Athena continues, mentioning notable thespians AnnitaSantorineou, Stella Fyrogeni, Elena Papadopoulou, Niovi Charalambous, Antonia Charalambous and Neoklis Neokleous.
“The acting and especially the actors play such an integral part in the realisation of this play, transforming themselves every few minutes as the plot flicks back and forth through time. It’s a fast-paced, heart-breaking journey that leaves you breathless as the secrets of the family – much like the stone of the title – are unearthed, examined and woven into legend.”
So if you’re searching for the wind of enthusiasm that will blow you from the cultural doldrums of the post-New Year celebrations, look no further than The Stone: set to blast away the January blues with a ferocious brushstroke of dramatic colour. Having already run – to rave reviews – from the end of December, it’s a play that’s a wake-up call to the mind, a breath of fresh air and a theatrical feast for the senses – and exactly what we need this month.
The Stone by Marcus Von Mayenburg, presented by THOC, translated into Greek by Giorgos Neofytou and directed by Athena Xenidou. Performances on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until February 5th, at the THOC New Theatre Building in Nicosia. 8.30pm. January 10, 17 & 24, 6pm. Larnaca: Municipal Theatre, January 12, 6pm, Limassol: Rialto Theatre, February 4, 8.30, Paphos: Markidio Theatre, February 5th, 8.30 pm. A performance in Nicosia on January 31 and February 4 in Limassol will have English Subtitles. Tickets: €12 from THOC ticket office or by reservation at 77772717. Tel: 77772717, [email protected], www.thoc.org.cy