Author Archives: Donald Hutera


About Donald Hutera

Donald Hutera writes about dance, theatre, circus and other forms of live performance for The Times of London and many other publications and websites. He is also a curator and dramaturg.

Under a Magnifying Glass

 Donald Hutera meets Euripides Laskaridis, the Greek artist responsible for the ripe and remarkable solo show Relic, which receives its UK premiere at the London International Mime Festival 2017

Relic, as the gifted Greek theatre-maker Euripides Laskaridis explains, ‘is a word that comes from the Latin “relinquere,” which means “whatever is left behind.” It’s something that has survived the past – be it a memory, a story, an object, a language or a being.’

The above definition might be useful in beginning to grasp the motives and philosophy behind his off-beat, outrageously engaging solo Relic. A presentation of this year’s Mime Festival, Laskaridis’ singular show was created under the auspices of his company Osmosis – a word which, beyond the scientific meaning of membrane penetration, also means the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas and knowledge (from the Greek ōsmos – ‘a push’). But audience members can also relinquish intellectual concerns and simply have a rollicking good time experiencing Relic as an expression of existence balanced on the border between the peculiarly poignant and the utterly bizarre.

I saw Relic in Barcelona a couple of years ago where it was included in a jam-packed programme of short works chosen for the annual, dance-based European performance platform Aerowaves. The show, and Laskaridis’ performance (which in effect is the show), was a highlight especially because it was so riskily playful and far from the norm.

On the Osmosis website Relic is described as happening in ‘a makeshift room, decorated in a haphazard DIY fashion’ where ‘a performer puts his notably awkwardly-shaped body under the magnifying glass.’ The room is, in essence, the stage but such a public arena is also the haven for someone whose state of being could be considered capricious, unquestionably camp, and even precarious. His/her (for there are forces at work here operating outside the standard gender binary) bulbous appearance might at first seem unsettling yet is harmlessly grotesque and, like his/her behaviour, oddly comic too.

Again, to quote from the website, during the performance ‘magic comes from the mundane, while references to cabaret, vaudeville and slapstick abound’. Greek artist Euripides Laskaridis is, it says, ‘preoccupied by ideas about transformation and ridicule’. With our gaze fixed firmly on unexpected aspects of the human condition, we explore everyday life – the little details, the collective subconscious, the imaginary and the absurd: ‘By testing the limits of our acceptance of the incongruous and unfamiliar, performer and audience alike will experience a moment of transcendence.’



Euripides Laskaridis/Osmosis: Relic


Others share my high regard for Relic. As Laskaridis estimates, in the space of just eighteen months or so it has been presented over forty times already in nearly twenty festivals in at least ten different countries.

Laskaradis, whom I met properly in Athens this past autumn, is a performer who uses whatever it takes to ‘say’ what he needs to say creatively. In other words, don’t pigeonhole him. Apart from his own projects for Osmosis he’s worked with Robert Wilson and, even more recently, was the recipient of a Pina Bausch Fellowship that enabled him to travel to Auckland and Santiago to observe in-depth the working process of the choreographer-director Lemi Ponifasio.

While Laskaridis claims to have had a relative lack of acceptance from the more conventional (ie text-based) branches of contemporary theatre, particularly in Greece, he has acquired an increasingly rewarding affinity with dance. ‘Dance doesn’t use words and thus understands many languages. It is everywhere in the world where the performing arts are trying to figure out new genres to categorise us. It’s an open artform – an art without borders. Artists with peculiar artistic voices like mine – that can’t be easily categorised – find shelter in the dance world. It’s a world that let this strange person in.’ And, he adds, ‘After Pina Bausch opened the can of worms with her form of tanztheater we’re all very lucky to be free of labels.’

Since founding Osmosis in 2009 Laskaridis has made work to be performed indoors and out, as well as ensemble pieces and solo shows. Where, I wondered, does Relic fit in terms of his overall development, especially as an artist based in Greece? ‘While Osmosis was formed at the very beginning of the Greek crisis, Relic was created during the heart of it. It’s no coincidence that it’s a rather personal, handmade solo piece for smaller spaces. It comes from the moment I realised the company would have to improvise to keep existing.’

Although we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the state of the world and the artist’s role in society, Laskaridis has, naturally, considered these relevant subjects. ‘I don’t consider myself to be an activist through my art,’ he says, ‘and am truly sceptical as to how much one should try to be “political” through a single performance. I do have an opinion for sure, and not a quiet one, but being an uncategorised artist already feels political enough. To me it doesn’t seem that art has any other mission than to help us contemplate our fragile existence.’

One of the ironies of Relic is, perhaps, how boldly and vividly it induces that contemplation. This is, as Laskaridis avows, in part the result of a creation process that invited in-put and exchange. ‘It’s a one-man-show but at the same time the work of a collective. If it weren’t for a loose group of collaborators it wouldn’t have happened. Even though there was no budget, and no clear plan of where or when this show would be ever presented, several people supported my endeavours by offering their time, their artistry, their golden advice and their feedback.’ He mentions Tatiana Bre, an associate director and friend who ‘spent endless hours watching me improvise and helping me clear out the abundance of ideas’; costume designer Angelos Mendis, who ‘gave me the key to the direction the work should go’; and Dimitris Papaioannou, one of the best-known Greek choreographer-directors and Laskaridis’ mentor who ‘gave his full support in every way possible to make sure I cleared the fog and concentrated on the essence. I feel blessed to have a nucleus of people around me who are moved down an unusual path by the sheer enthusiasm of artistic exploration’.


Euripides Laskaridis/Osmosis: Relic

Euripides Laskaridis/Osmosis: Relic


And yet, for all the artistic investment from others, Relic is at once a highly a subjective performance but also, for all its zaniness, one that carries a strong potential for universal identification. ‘It’s a personal piece,’ Laskaradis agrees, ‘and at the same time an open poem to all creatures past and present. Through this peculiar onstage existence it speaks about this place hidden at the back of our mind which we have all dreamed of but can’t put into words.’

Embracing the multiplicity of angles that can arise from live performance, Laskaridis is able to articulate both what it’s like to experience Relic and what it means for him to be in it. ‘It’s not an easy show even though it’s light and quick, so that the time passes by very quickly for the audience. This is the art behind it, I guess – a lot of mind and body work, transferring, remounting and performing the piece every time in a different theatre. The public sees none of this effort – they just have the pleasure of the journey within the 40 or so minutes the show unravels before their eyes.’

As a solo Relic is, as Laskaridis sums up: ‘A piece that needs you to bring your 100% of your being every time you perform it. I like to talk to the audience after the show – about what they saw and what story they “read.” Each audience member has a unique thread untangled in their mind each time. This feedback is my ammunition for the next performance – food for thought for next time I’m onstage.’

Suffice to say that when you meet him and talk about his work it’s plain that Laskaridis loves what he’s doing. It therefore comes as no surprise when he says, ‘I’m thrilled to perform Relic every single time.’


Euripides Laskaridis/Osmosis: Relic is at Barbican, The Pit 31 January – 4 February 2017 as part of the London International Mime Festival.

Donald Hutera leads the post-show discussion on 2 February. 

Photos by Evi Fylaktou and Miltos Athanasiou



Sleight of Hand: the magical Kiss & Cry

Donald Hutera talks to Michèle Anne De Mey and Gregory Grosjean about Kiss & Cry, which comes to the London International Mime Festival 2017

‘When the magician shows you the trick, maybe the trick starts to be more magical.’

Now to be honest, I didn’t hear these words issuing from the lips of Jaco Van Dormael, the Belgian film-maker whose credits include Toto the Hero (1991), Mr Nobody (2009) and The Brand New Testament (2015). I’m also uncertain whether this paraphrase of Van Dormael was told to me by his partner of seventeen years, the choreographer Michèle Anne De Mey, or her fellow dance collaborator Gregory Grosjean, when I met them both in Bolgona, Italy, this autumn.

Maybe the source of the sentence doesn’t really matter. What counts is the idea being expressed so neatly, and how aptly it applies to the magical Kiss & Cry, which comes to the Barbican in February 2017, as part of the London International Mime Festival, presented under the auspices of Charleroi Danses.

Collectively created by Van Dormael, De Mey and Grosjean (along with the writer Thomas Gunzig, the cinematographer Julien Lambert, designer Sylvie Olivé and lighting man Nicolas Olivier), Kiss & Cry is an entrancing and gorgeous hybrid of a show that’s been on the international arts circuit for close to five years now.

By turns witty, poignant and spellbinding, this approximately 90-minute work has, since its 2012 premiere, racked up close to 300 performances in languages including Flemish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Korean. The English version receives what De Mey deems quite a fairytale-like rendering by the young British actor Toby Regbo. Language is one of the ways that this vividly realised piece is tailored to each location in which it is performed. Heard only as an intermittent voice-over, Gunzig’s text is the poetic echo of imagery that could be described as consistently striking and cumulatively profound.




You could characterise Kiss & Cry itself as a piece of ‘live cinema,’ but one with a marvellous catch. The human hand is the star (or, as De Mey puts it, ‘the main character’) of the show, and it’s the hand or, more accurately, several hands that, in tandem with the camera (or, more accurately, two cameras) also do most of the ‘talking’ – by which I mean communicating – in this utterly ingenious and economical production. The familiar (and, no surprise, highly photogenic) five-fingered appendage is used as both a functional tool and, more significantly, a hugely expressive instrument. And it’s our privilege and pleasure to witness these hands travelling through a series of beautifully and cleverly constructed small-scale settings and situations that play literally and figuratively with size, and emotionally with time. Kiss & Cry is, in essence, like an act of collective dreaming into which we’re cordially invited.

One of the most wondrous things about this imaginative and uncommonly seductive performance is how multi-layered and multi-levelled it is, and yet so transparent in the meticulously stylised manner in which it touches upon evolution, mythology, romance, destiny versus chance and much more. Indeed, everything about Kiss & Cry is visible from the get-go.

‘Everybody onstage is playing with cinema,’ says De Mey when we meet in Bologna, where the production was presented at Teatro Arena del Sole as part of the 12th edition of the four-city Vie Festival. ‘The fabrication of the movie is what the audience sees.’ She stops speaking just long enough to think for a beat, and then corrects herself: ‘Everything is there for you to see – how we make the show and, at the same time, the results.’ Later, without meaning to contradict herself, she compares Kiss & Cry to a series of Russian matryoshka dolls, ‘one inside the other.’




Kiss & Cry features a cast of nine – De Mey and Grosjean, actor-dancers whose limbs do most of the performing, plus a clutch of technicians who are just as much interpreters of the work in their own right. This band of clever, miniaturist movie-makers keep themselves extraordinarily occupied with the common goal of imparting an elusive and often almost abstract narrative of longing, love and loss that unfolds via movement (of human flesh, principally in the form of hand puppetry; objects, props and décor; and cinematic and other technical and equipment) and is set to an eclectic and singularly well-chosen soundtrack that encompasses, among others, Handel and Vivaldi, Gershwin and Ligeti, Jimmy Scott and Yves Montand, Anna Calvi and John Cage.

Grosjean sums Kiss & Cry up nicely when he says, ‘We create a whole world with little things, and put big meaning into little things.’ But his deceptively simple statement begs the question of just how a performance of such sensual, surreal and absorbing charm as this one was accomplished?

‘The story of the movie is the last thing we decided in the creation process,’ says De Mey. ‘First three, then four, and then five of us began to play, initially in the kitchen at home with the toys our (now grown-up) kids left there and then in the studio. We were completely free. It was forbidden for us to speak about a story or a theme for two months. Sometimes we just came together in the morning and said, “Okay, what do we do today?” Everyone would to do a little scene, or a little action. Everybody was at the toys together but we all played with different ones, or different materials, or the lyrics of a song, but always we were trying to find another language, another desire, another game.’

Here Grosjean pitches himself back into the conversation: ‘We started from nothing. Some of us had worked together before and some had not, but in the process of creation we were really children. It’s like we were 11 years old, not like artists. But we knew what we were doing, using the process of childhood to tell an adult story. It’s actually mature to lose control this way, and let things go until later. And we’ve kept the mood of the creation of Kiss & Cry every night we perform it. The audience catches onto this – how we try step by step to be adult.’

De Mey picks up the ball in order to make an equally important point about creative equality and collaborative ownership:

‘Some of us were coming from movies, or dance, or technology, but from the beginning everybody was together and everybody could explore the areas of the other ones. So we played together, like an orchestra, and only afterwards we decided to do something.

‘What we do with hands is not really special,’ De Mey continues, referring to her and Grosjean’s key contribution to Kiss & Cry. ‘This is quick to learn because we are dancers who know what it is to be onstage, and the rest of the body is also onstage.’ But, for the two of them as well as the others in the show, ‘there has to be the music of playing together for us to be in the right spirit to take the space and the stage. Now when we are onstage everybody is scored really precisely. To be together in the score is to be in accord with everybody.’




Reaction to Kiss & Cry has been for the most part extremely positive. By way of example, the post-show talk I sat in on in Bologna was conducted in an atmosphere of admiration that, in some cases, approached awe. One younger audience member (a theatre student, as it happened) compared the show to a spider’s web: ‘I felt trapped by something… touched and moved to a place I’ve never been before.’ Someone else remarked that ‘Hitchcock would’ve loved it’.

Grosjean believes there’s a reason for the show’s magnetic attraction. ‘People get attached to it because they can project themselves into it, and read the performance through their own feelings.’ But, he avows, Kiss & Cry ‘was not supposed to be such a success. We did the premiere and didn’t expect anything.’

‘Nobody in the beginning believed in it,’ says De Mey. Despite the show’s continued success there has apparently been a bit of a backlash on the part of certain segments of the French-speaking cultural community of Wallonie where she lives and works. Some, she says, consider Kiss & Cry ‘too popular, or not intellectual enough’. De Mey hasn’t much patience for this attitude, countering it by placing her faith in increased opportunities for artists and companies ‘to experiment without the pressure to have results, to research and invent new languages and to say, “I don’t know what it will be, but I want to try.”’

In the meantime Kiss & Cry continues to exert an enduring appeal including for those inside it. The show has been double-cast, but the second group is no less a part of the whole enterprise than the original creative team. ‘We are crazy,’ says De Mey with a mix of irony and affection. ‘No, we’re just maniacal. We love a lot this performance. What we created, and what is between us, is important for all of us. And what the public receives is same thing that we give each other. Everybody’s attached.’





Kiss & Cry will appear at the Barbican Theatre 1–4 February 2017 as part of the London International Mime Festival. For full details of this and all shows and events, see 

All images are Charleroi Danses: Kiss & Cry. Photos by Marteen Vanden Abeele.