THE PATRIOTIC intimidation and bullying aimed at preventing people from attending the staging of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone at the ancient theatre of Salamina failed spectacularly. People ignored the patriotic bullies who tried to portray attendance of the play as an act of treachery that showed acceptance of the occupation, upgraded the regime in the north and other such nonsense.
Twenty-four coaches had brought people to Salamina while hundreds arrived in their cars. The start of the play was delayed by half an hour not just because Cypriots are never on time. There were many more people than the 4,000 capacity open air theatre could take and the actors had to wait for them to find a spot from which they could watch, either sitting in the aisles or standing up at the back. The audience was a multi-cultural mix proving that the arts bring people together, despite the best efforts of the bullies to discourage people from going by turning attendance into a guilt trip.
On the night of the play a demonstration was organised outside the Greek embassy in Nicosia to protest about the fact that the play was being staged by two Greek state theatre groups together with Thoc, the Cyprus Theatre Organisation. A couple of days earlier, Solidarity leader and MEP Eleni Theocharous tried to shame Greece’s ambassador into disowning the performance by claiming she had heard ‘rumours’ he would be going to Salamina. Instead of ignoring her, he denied there was any truth in the rumours, giving the impression that Theocharous’ intimidation had worked.
A Solidarity spokesman picked up his leader’s patriotic theme, declaring that “today is a day of mourning for Solidarity and the Greeks of Cyprus” and that the organisers of the play were “working to complete the unholy task of Cyprus’ Turkification.” Cartoon-style extremist nationalists like Theocharous and her party can always be relied on to go over the top with their protest and end up looking foolish. If any mourning was necessary it should have been for the depths some parties are willing to sink to in the hope of winning votes.
Thankfully, thousands of Greeks of Cyprus were not mourning on Wednesday, but enjoying a performance of a classic tragedy about the importance of human values, staged in an ancient theatre, as it had been 2,500 years ago. This was an experience to be cherished and we all hope that this is just the beginning. Asked if the staging of plays at Salamina could become an annual fixture, Thoc chairman Yiannis Toumazis said he hoped this would not be necessary because we would soon be living in a reunited Cyprus. This is what really worries the patriotic bullies like Theocharous.