On Saturday, February 12, 2022, Center for the Art of Performance UCLA Online ( CAP UCLA) presented the Director’s Cut film version of Greek artist Dimitris Papaioannou’s NOWHERE. The original version of the stage production was commissioned in 2009 by the National Theatre of Greece. Papaioannou was the first artist to set a new work following the renovation of the National Theatre of Greece’s main stage. Having seen his production titled The Great Tamer live at Royce Hall in 2017, I was very excited to see Nowhere and although nothing replaces witnessing in-person theater, the film did not disappoint.
Generally when a production moves into a theater, the set is either transported in or built there in its scene shop. For Nowhere, the theater is the set and Papaionnou makes use of every inch of performance space, backstage area, light rigging, and moving stage panels – of which there are many at the National Theatre of Greece. Dressed in pedestrian-style costumes, the cast drop from the rigging like insects from an electrified lamp, lie motionless as a floor panel/trap door slowly reveals varying depths of areas underneath the stage. Sole figures woefully fall into one of these abysses as if performing a final act of suicide.
With all the curtains and side legs absent, the theater appears vast. The lighting is stark and almost totally accomplished with white spot lights and specials. The sound is generated by the noise from the rigging, the traps and the cast’s actions on all of the above. The movement is pedestrian with an unspoken purpose drive behind it – rarely still, but hardly ever hurried. And although the theater’s apparatuses are almost constantly shifting, there is a severe loneliness to this work that borders on heartbreak. Nowhere is a woeful but extremely recognizable commentary on humanity. Each of us surrounded by others, but alone inside our own head. We move forward, but sometimes fail or simply give up.
Papaionnou reminds us that the world is constantly changing, shifting around us, and moving on in spite of what we want or need. There is a beautiful moment when suddenly a bright amber light appears and it draws the large cast of 24 performers toward it. One man approaches the light and sharply snatches the essence of the light into his hands. The rest of the world returns to black and white, but there this one person holds a temporary solution within his grasp.
In one scene the trap doors that move from upstage to down, uprooting the floor panels as they go. Perhaps because I live in California, I felt as if I was watching a mountain being created by tectonic plates shifting beneath the earth’s surface during a massive quake. Following mostly quietness, the sound generated by this action was unsettling.
Very near the end of the work, the theater’s loading dock door rises and what seems like over a hundred people quietly enter into the space. Their purpose is unknown and it does not matter. It is all part of Papaioannou’s view on life and the faults and potentials of the people who inhabit this earth. As mentioned, Nowhere was commissioned by the National Theatre of Greece which is equipped with state of the art stage mechanisms, and Papaionnou was able to access this to choreograph all of the moving parts of the theater as well as how the cast reacts to the constant spatial shifting.
The original production of Nowhere was performed twice daily in overlapping shows, bringing the audiences face to face. By ending the film with this theatrical transition, we are reminded that life goes on and that sadly, all too often we willfully cause history to repeat itself.
Nowhere (2009) was conceived, Visualized and directed by Dimitris Papaioannou who also created, filmed, and edited the film version which he dedicated to the memory of German dancer, choreographer, and actress Pina Bausch (1940 – 2009). Bausch was a major contributor to a neo-expressionist dance tradition now known as Tanztheater.
Other Credits for NOWHERE
Music + Sound Design: Coti K.; Associate Visual Artist: Zafos Xagoraris; Lighting Design: Alekos Yiannaros; Costume Design: Thanos Papastergiou; and Assistant Director – Artistic Producer + Coordinator: Tina Papanikolaou.
Performed by: Prokopis Agathokleous, Thanassis Akokkalidis, Panos Athanasopoulos, Maria Bregianni, Ilia De Tchaves-Poga, Nikos Dragonas, Altin Huta, Yorgos Kafetzopoulos, Konstantinos Karvouniaris, Euripides Laskaridis, Konstantinos Maravelias, Yorghos Matskaris, Yiannis Michos, Christos Papadopoulos, Yiannis Papakammenos, Simos Patieridis, Aris Plaskassovitis, Ilias Rafailidis, Evangelia Randou, Kalliopi Simou, Diogenis Skaltsas, Tadeu Liesenfeld, Simeon Tsakiris, Sophia Tsiaousi, Manolis Theodorakis, And Antonis Vais.
To read more about Dimitris Papaioannou, please visit his WEBSITE.
To learn more about the National Theatre of Greece, please visit their WEBSITE.
To learn more about CAP UCLA’s programing, please visit their WEBSITE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: NOWHERE by Dimitris Papaioannou – Photo by Marilena Stafylidou