Meet the Frair Theatre Group at The Fringe who believe that 'despite the lack of financial support for the arts there are hubs of resistance.'
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the biggest art festivals globally that offers: ‘the world’s greatest platform for creative freedom’. Indeed, anyone can participate in the festival that has the energy to organise a performance. This marks it as an extremely significant event since it offers a space for amateurs and professional groups alike to create any type of performance they please with great freedom regarding the content of their works. One of these year’s participants is the Frair Theatre group from Athens with the theatrical performance called ‘Expendable Chapters’. Their show is built around the idea of the ‘neglected aspects of the everyday’, the feature of our waking lives that our busy schedules blur or cut out completely from our daily views. Rooted in the Athenian lifestyle, and borrowing texts from different Greek authors, this performance offers new ways of looking at our everyday as well as being a voyage down memory lane that invites the audience to remember what they have forgotten.
Can you briefly introduce us to the team and narrate to us what winds of fate have pushed all of you together?
We met at the Attiko School of Ancient Greek Drama in Elefsina. We were brought together by our common understanding of what theatre is or should be and the need to work with and learn from each other. We all come from different backgrounds but our common admiration of literature and the need to interact with literary texts, finding ways of reading, interacting and researching brought us together.
Can you also explain what the name of your theatre group ‘Frair’ means?
‘Frair’ in Greek is the word for well or the well from which water springs. Also it has the word ‘εαρ’ that in ancient Greek means spring.
Your performance is called ‘Expendable Chapters’. Can you tell us what it alludes to and what should the viewers expect?
All of our texts are fragments and fleeting vignettes. ‘Expendable Chapters’ is a constant search for the right words and understanding that the quest is impossible. The title is borrowed from Cortasar and the idea that the constant of rearrangement of these fragments can bring each other into new light. The audience should expect glimpses of the neglected aspects of the everyday along with photographs that interrogate what we remember and the ways memory functions.
You have used extracts from different writers to form your completed script. What do you think are the benefits of interetextuality and why was it useful to do it that way?
We think that the rearrangement and the reading of texts next to each other offers new perspectives. It allows one to draw connections between them. Our own reading of these texts was that they share similar shades of meaning or they carry similar attempts to describe certain topics. Again, it all comes together due to our love for literature and the need to interact with the texts, the challenge being to transfer the text from the page to the stage.
‘I keep all your letters in a box. Ever since you left I am talking to objects.’
"ARE THERE BLESSED CREATURES? ARE THERE ANY CREATURES THAT EVERYONE FALLS IN LOVE WITH? I DO NOT KNOW. THE ONLY SURE THING IS THAT THERE ARE FORTIFICATIONS AND DEFENSIVE TACTICS BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO SOMEHOW LIVE."
Can you mention some of the writers you have used and why they have inspired you?
The most prominent one is Thanos Kappas. We found ‘relief’ and ‘familiarity’ in his texts and sought to meet with him. We are forever grateful to him for his assistance. One of the greatest perks of this project has been our chance to meet people who inspire us, but also allow us to learn from them. We chose some other extracts from films, poems and of course our own texts.
The city of Athens seems to be the core of the play. What does Athens mean for all of you? And do you think that the geographical specificity empowers or weakens the universal dimension of the play?
First of all we don’t attempt to be universal as our performance is very local and engages with landscapes and atmospheres that we encounter in our every day. We all live in Athens. For each of us it is different. For example Seta is from Cyprus while others have grown up here. All these different perceptions of Athens came together to form our performance. Most of the discussions that led to the idea of forming the group and devising the piece came from our actual walks around the city. As a result ‘walking’ itself became a significant part of our performance.
Another theme of the play is love and loss and they seem to be interchangeable, as one is presented as unable to exist without the other. What is the role of interplay in the performance?
This interplay is the driving force of the play as are the unfulfilled and the unsaid. We keep returning to this interplay as the writers themselves do in their texts that we use. It’s a constant point of return with the same intensity through memory or through new interactions. We remember while forgetting, and our memory itself becomes fictionalised. We wanted to examine these and interact with these topics and all the ways these things have been articulated while never been without ever being exhausted. So we return into this idea of ‘Expendable Chapters’ and the constant search for the right words that we know will never arrive.
What is your main aim as a theatrical team? What type of obstacles did you find in your way and what was the most difficult to surpass?
Our main aim is to be working with each other, to work with new people and to find ways to work collectively and collaboratively. We are friends and this attitude of ‘companionship’ is key to everything we’ve done so far and everything we hope to be doing in the future.
How difficult it is you feel, as an amateur theatrical team to reach the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Especially in terms of finance and practicalities.
It has been difficult as we have been doing everything from production, to devising and acting. However this project would have been impossible without the love and support of everyone that came to help us and the photographers, academics, musicians, actors, directors, scenographers stood and stand by our side. The performance is also supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus.
And what do you think is the fate of theatre nowadays for young actors? At least in Athens?
The situation is really difficult and often discouraging but at the same time it is one of the reasons that we decided to do this by ourselves. We wanted to break that crippling sense of helplessness. Having said this, despite the institutional and educational failure and the lack of financial support for the arts there are hubs of resistance that can be found and those hubs are ‘the source of light’ that give us hope to continue doing what we do.
Interviewed by: Alexandra Krstic
Cast: Sofia Ioannou, Giorgos Orfanoudakis, Ioanna Apostolopoulou, Seta Astreou Karides