By Carmel Shortall
As the audience enter, an unnamed woman is pumping up a sofa onstage to the jaunty strains of Greek popular music. When the sofa is ready, covered with a throw and the cushions arranged to her satisfaction, she begins to talk.
“I’m not really myself,” she explains as she continues to build the set. Bit by bit, her home emerges as, bit by bit, she tells us about her life. She’s not depressed in the usual way – she might laugh; she might fuck; go out; but underlying everything there is a sense that it is all a bit … blah! “This watermelon is a bit … blah!”
At the moment, she is waiting for Stavros. They’ll fuck, have a laugh – he’s kind, educated, fun, but ultimately, we suspect, a bit … blah! Poor Stavros!
What else is there to take pleasure in? Well there are beautiful cemeteries you can be buried in; there are brassières for mastectomies so well-made – “you can’t even tell!” And she has her acronyms: S.H.I.T. is Sadness Halted Immediately Today, apparently.
Her best years are behind her and, long as she might for “the rough seas of my youth”, she has only the “flat calm of maturity” to look forward to. But she’s not looking forward to it at all and has an exit plan: M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A.
Our heroine’s existential crisis eventually takes her to Hell where she is beaten up by St Peter and faces even more Checkovian mediocrity – plus an eternity of “dringydringydringy” (bouzouki) music.
Aliki Chapple is by turns poignant, foul-mouthed and angry but always fun and in total command of the stage. Whether feverishly arranging and rearranging her room or practicing shooting herself in the head with her “finger gun”, she draws the eye. The play, by Lena Kitsopoulou was translated by Chapple herself and had its UK premiere in Lancaster in 2013, where it was directed by Stella Duffy.
First performed in Greece in 2009, the play can apparently be seen as “an allegory of Greece’s current woes” and while this may be overstating matters somewhat, there is that Greek proverb quoted in the play: “You can wear yourself out knocking on the deaf man’s door!” You listening, Schauble/Merkel?
And what does M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A. stand for? You’ll have to go and find out for yourself!
Remaining performances are at 6pm Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th August at the Hen & Chickens, Highbury Corner. Tickets are £6 (concs £5).