Five ambassadors to Cyprus, Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and coordinator of bicommunal technical committees Andreas Pyrishis, are among the high-profile guests who will attend Wednesday’s performance of Sophocles’ Antigone at ancient Salamina in occupied Famagusta, chair of the technical committee for culture Androulla Vasiliou told the Cyprus Mail.
The play, staged by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (Thoc) the National Theatre of Greece and the State Theatre of Northern Greece, has caused a political storm in the Republic of Cyprus, with detractors claiming it constitutes a form of recognition of the illegal breakaway regime in the occupied areas.
Already held seven times at various locations in Cyprus this month, the production moves to the ancient theatre on Wednesday for a single performance featuring subtitles in Turkish and English, before returning to Larnaca for a final performance on Friday.
On Monday, Greek ambassador to Cyprus Ilias Fotopoulos was forced to deny reports that he would be attending the Salamina event, after Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous cited “tips and reports that the play will be attended by His Excellency the ambassador of Greece”.
“I hope it is only rumours, and express my deepest sorrow for this,” she said.
A spokesman for the Greek embassy told the Cyprus News Agency that the rumours are “completely unfounded, baseless, and outrageous”.
“This is just the standard difference of opinions,” Vasiliou told the Cyprus Mail, referring to the voices of protest.
In 2015, the committee organised another production in the occupied areas, which received a similar reaction.
“We believe that these areas are ours, and we will use them whenever we get a chance to,” she said of the Salamina theatre.
“Especially when the object is an ancient Greek tragedy, which conveys such significant messages. It will also be a chance for Turkish Cypriots to enjoy such a performance, with such messages.”
Commenting on the Greek ambassador’s strong denial, Vasiliou confirmed invitations were extended to the entire diplomatic corps serving in Cyprus.
“Five RSVP’d,” she said.
“The ambassadors of Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Russia, and the USA, will be there, as will be Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis, and Andreas Pyrishis.”
Thoc chairman Yiannis Toumazis told CNA that he views occupied Salamina as a “cradle of our civilization, and we go there as hosts to receive our Greek and Turkish Cypriot fellow citizens, in a spirit of reconciliation, mutual understanding, and respect.
“On either side of the Green Line live ordinary people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, hoping to be able to live together in a reunited Cyprus, which is why I strongly believe that initiatives like this make the best contribution to the reunification of our country,” he said.
Asked whether the Turkish Cypriot side raised any demands before allowing the staging of the production, Toumazis said none.
“The Antigone production, just like the Hippolytus play last year, is staged under the auspices of the bicommunal technical committee on culture,” he said.
“The committee sets the framework and facilitates the organisation of cultural events aiming to bring the two communities closer, in the effort to reunite our country.”