updates Eleni Efthymiou The power of theater Last spring found Eleni Efthymiou amidst the rehearsals for the opera A Cloud
One of the most active directors and restless spirits of the new generation, Eleni Efthymiou, in less than a decade, has made a name for herself in the Greek theatre, having staged performances that left their mark in the recent years, travelling beyond the country’s boundaries. Born in 1986 in Exeter, England, and having grown up in Athens, Eleni Efthymiou graduated from the School of Drama of AUTh’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Multitalented right from the start, in addition to Acting, she studied Classical Singing at the Classical Conservatory of Holargos, Byzantine Music at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki, as well as Jazz Dance. A proponent of the research, experimental and socially oriented theatre, the talented director, musician, soprano and actress is determined to “fight for a better society through my work, as well as through my taking part in the collective struggles of our times.”
Therefore, it’s no surprise that her works place emphasis on the relation between man and society. Two plays that stand out are Je suis complètement battue by Éléonore Mercier, based on testimonials by people who have sustained domestic violence, and staged by Thessaloniki’s Experimental Scene of “Art” within the framework of the 47th Dimitria (2012), as well as The Call of the Wild by Jack London (Onassis Stegi, 2017), which traveled in the most remote regions of Greece. Eleni Efthymiou’s profound bond with music was bound to permeate her theatre work, too. On stage, she attempts to create acoustic environments that converse with the text, through the use of well-known songs or original music themes of her own composition. A key component in her quests is the co-existence of space, body, and identity.
Collective work and team spirit are among the reasons that inspired her to pursue a career in theater. “My love for theatre comes from the fact that I value and seek togetherness, communication, collective work, co-operation, research, as well as poetry, imagination and the building of new places, through which we can envision a better and full-blown society,” she goes on to say.
Her teaming up with the Thessaloniki-based young artists’ ensemble “En dynamei” was a pivotal moment in her career. The theatre trilogy The Other is the normal, which sprang out of the ensemble members’ need to share their own stories and meditate on the personal and universal aspects of human condition through the prism of an artistic event, was the fruit of this collaboration. The trilogy’s opening part, The fan man or How to dress an elephant, was showcased at the Athens & Epidaurus Festival (2015), the second installment bearing the title The “Other” Home, produced by Onassis Foundation, was staged at the Onassis Stegi, as well as within the framework of the 51st Dimitria (2016), while the closing leg, Horse in Love / The Absurd of Love, delivered a breathtaking finale. The successful curtain raise of this performance took place in May 2018, at the Moni Lazariston theatre of the National Theatre of Greece, followed up by an outstanding run at the Athens & Epidaurus Festival. In all three productions, Eleni Efthymiou and Eleni Dimopoulou served as stage director and artistic director, respectively.
The play The fan man or How to dress an elephant was also staged at the Créarc – Rencontres du Jeune Théâtre Européen in Grenoble, in 2018. In the following year, it was selected to represent Greece and raise the curtain at the Europäisches Bürgerbühnenfestival, hosted in Dresden. At the same time, Eleni Efthymiou gained once again international attention thanks to Bathtub Memory Project, a performance blend of music and theatre, showcased at the 2018 Munich Biennale, where she took on a dual role, both as a director and as a soprano.
Eleni Efthymiou and the city of Thessaloniki crossed paths again in autumn 2019, when she took on directing Nikos Bakolas’ The Great Square, adapted for the theatre by Akis Dimou. Through her approach on this iconic and multilayered novel that portrays History’s circularity and the shattering of all noble visions, Eleni Efthymiou has discerned the expectation for a new beginning. “Even though the novel’s narrative unfolds as a story of defeat, there’s a hope in me that the real premise is not the defeat itself, but the process accepting and reconciling with the idea that mankind – unrelentingly ridded by the forces of History, whose strings are pulled either by our actions or our indifference – comes up with a new dream and a new vision, urging us to move forward,” says the director.
Last winter, Eleni Efthymiou directed the play AND NOW THE WORLD! or the so-called outside means nothing to me by Sibylle Berg, staged at Rex Theatre – Stage “Katina Paxinou” of the National Theatre of Greece. In the staging of this polyphonic monologue, written by the German-Swiss playwright, which revolves around the many and different roles a woman is called to assume in contemporary capitalistic society, Eleni Efthymiou took up acting duties on top of being a director. Her following work, Nâzim Hikmet’s operatic fairy tale A Cloud in Love, featuring an original score by Sofia Kamayianni and a libretto by Eleni Zafeiriou, was scheduled to take the floor at the Alternative Stage of the Greek National Opera in spring 2020, but rehearsals came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eleni Efthymiou’s latest project, where she teamed up once again with the “En Dynamei” ensemble, In the Space of Her Mind, was showcased in December 2020, within the framework of the Mind the Fact online festival 2020. Eleni Efthymiou and the “En Dynamei” ensemble joined forces to conceive and create this original work, in which a group of people observe and capture a series of everyday life unseen heroes, unfolding a place of connotations and unanswered questions.