Yorgos Karamalegos - Home

Yorgos Karamalegos: Home

Yorgos Karamalegos - HomeMedea is a myth that centres on Medea’s choice to leave her homeland to follow her heart, joining her lover, the Cretan King Jason. This staple of the Greek canon is a rich exploration of love, betrayal, and vengeance and, as is usual with Greek tragedy, avoids providing an easy answer or singular viewpoint. It is this myth that forms the emotional and thematic spine of Yorgos Karamalegos’s first full-length work since standing down as co-artistic director of Tmesis Theatre.

Staged in Chisenhale’s brick-backed studio space, Home is an intelligent, stripped-back, and emotionally-charged reflection on love and what it means to belong. It opens in Dionysian fashion – the first flush of infatuation is staged as celebration. Karamalegos, alongside the two other performers (Despina Sidiropoulou and Tatiana Spivakova) invite us to recall our first kiss, the first time we made love – they whip themselves into states of ecstasy, Karamalegos repeating short bursts of physical motifs whilst Sidiropoulou and Spivakova drive him forward with delighted laughs and squeals of joy.

This burst of pleasure in the newness of attraction shifts to the intensity of love, as Karamalegos-Jason and Sidiropoulou-Medea offer themselves completely to each other. In this central section it is hard not to read Home in the context of the Greek financial crisis, especially when the, now ‘suited’, Karamalegos turns to the audience to explain that ‘Tonight, it’s all about the economy.’ He conjures shades of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, all easy, confident charm and sensual power. This is Jason as film idol, with the money and power to satisfy his every whim, and bestow that power onto his lover. But it is also Jason as the foreign city, the escape from the struggles of the homeland into the riches of the diaspora.

Sensitively though, Sidiropoulou resists playing her shift to the depth of love as naive ingenue – there is a steeliness behind her playful surrender to Karamalegos-Jason, a conscious choice to embrace the love that he offers. A measured choice to leave her past behind. This is touchingly played out by Sidiropoulou’s listing of the parts of her body she dislikes – as if bidding these attitudes goodbye in the face of love.

Throughout this, Spivakova acts as something like a chorus. In short scenes, working almost discretely from the Karamalegos-Sidiropoulou pairing, she embellishes the themes and comments upon the action. She is the link to the audience, using a generous and warm complicity to frame to the action for us. ‘I am adaptable,’ she exclaims, as she moves from chair to chair, relishing with joyous openness the pleasure of each new experience. She is the embodiment of the simple pleasures of love.

But as with Medea, this love turns sour. The two lovers come to blows, Karamalegos viciously demanding more of Sidiropoulou. But the more she offers, the more he taunts her, and finally when she resists he casts her aside. ‘It’s all about the economy,’ he again explains, asserting that love is intrinsically tied up with finance, with what money the one offers the other, and that she offers him nothing. And with this Sidiropoulou is left with nothing.

Cast adrift – the world collapses – she has to face this emptiness. And it is in this emptiness she finds her solace and her freedom. ‘I’m free. I’m nothing. Nothing has no weight,’ she concludes, as the lights slowly fade into darkness, but it is not as easy as this. And this is where the piece really hits home. We have to make a choice – to be free and alone, or to be tied to love. The love for another person or the love for another city, with all the demands and betrayals that this love brings. So this deeply moving piece, like the Greek drama, doesn’t offer solutions – only a perspective on the complexities of the difficulties of the world we have to grapple with.

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About Thomas JM Wilson

Thomas JM Wilson has been writing for Total Theatre since 2001. His own performance work lies at the borders of dance and theatre, with a particular interest in solo performance. He is an Associate Artist of Gandini Juggling, working as Archivist and Publications Author. He also currently teaches on Rose Bruford's BA European Theatre Arts, and is a co-editor of the Training Grounds section of the journal Theatre, Dance and Performance Training.