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Glory days revived with ancient Greek drama festival July 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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Passion, love, revenge and greed come to Cyprus with the ancient Greek drama festival (some of which is in English).

In an effort to revive the glory of ancient Greek drama, theatre companies from Cyprus, Greece, England and Germany take to the stage this July and August. There will be much passion, love, hatred, revenge and greed coming to life at venues across Cyprus.

Tradition has it that ancient Greek drama evolved from the songs, folk tales and dances offered to Dionysos, the god of fertility and wine. As one of the earliest theatrical forms in the world to emerge, Greek plays have had a lasting impact on Western drama and culture and have inevitably attracted the international community. “There has recently been an updated interest in Greek drama across the world. This is the tenth festival of this kind taking place on our island with great success… Greek tragedies are always very popular with locals and tourists alike,” said President of the Cyprus International Theatre Institute, Christakis Georgiou.

This year’s programme kicks off on July 5 with the Cypriot production of The Ecclesiazusae staged by The Cyprus Theatrical Organisation (THOK). Here you can enjoy women playing leading roles, with the classic beauty of the Paphos Ancient Odeon as a fantastic backdrop. Written by Aristophanes in 392 BC, the play deals with the issue of the fairer sex, and satirises society’s ideals and principles regarding the position of women. The plot focuses on the women of Athens, under the leadership of wise Praxagora, who resolves to reform the constitution. To this end, they don men’s clothes and take seats in the Assembly, commanding a majority to carry through a series of revolutionary proposals. They institute a pro-Communist government in which the state feeds, houses, and generally takes care of every Athenian woman. The main part of the comedy deals with the difficulties that inevitably arise from this new state of affairs.

In Euripides’ Bacchae, a far more dramatic piece, the tragic outcomes of the long-drawn Peloponisian war are depicted. Performed by ‘Anixi’ Theatre Company from Greece, expect to see destruction, corruption and killings galore. This is the last work written by Euripides, and was influenced by his contact with a local type of Dionysian cult unknown to him in Macedonia. The performance plays upon notions of death and regeneration, at a point where the world is in absolute chaos.

England’s ‘Thiasos’ company will then bring the oldest surviving Greek drama to life with Aeschylus’ Persians. Set in the Persian court of Sousa, the play represents the reaction of the Persians to the destruction of their fleet by the Greeks at the battle of Salamis. Performed in English, this is a great chance for the audience to experience foreign actors interpreting Greek drama.

“This festival provides the opportunity for Cypriot actors, directors and the general theatre loving public to see other approaches to Greek drama” said Georgiou. “Last year it was quite amazing to see how foreign actors adapted Greek drama and they received much applause from the audience”. This year, the In the Blood theatre company will also be staging a performance in English, of Euripides’ Medea. Much passion is guaranteed as the story of jealousy and revenge of a woman betrayed by her husband unfolds.

For a taste of Greek mythology expressed through dance, the Mecklenburg State Ballet will be putting on a show to remember with Oresteia. This German dance theatre is choreographed by well-known Cypriot, Dominique Efstratiou. Fighting for power and the theme of revenge is taken to its limits when Agamemnon, leader of the Greek fleet in the Trojan war, sacrifices his daughter in order to achieve success. His wife kills him out of revenge when he finally returns from Troy, and is later killed herself by her own son Orestes.

The festival draws to a close in August with Birds by Aristophanes, staged by the Cypriot Scala Theatre group. Here two men frustrated with life in wartime Athens find their way into the domain of the birds, determined to escape from the many hostilities they have suffered. As their journey evolves, the audience is drawn into a world full of bold and rich imagery. Amusing poetic dialogue combined with pleasing lyrical interludes brings two months full of action and drama to a graceful end.

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Different hamam, different universe July 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Cyprus Nicosia.
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In our earlier post Prestigeous “Europa Nostra” prize awarded to Nicosia we talked about the Omeriye Hamam in Nicosia winning the “Europa Nostra” prize. In this post we talk about different hamams and different universes.

Exhausted by recent trips and stood up by a friend who preferred to visit an ageing relative in an the old people’s home, I opted for a quiet, inactive Sunday and went to the Omeriye Hamam to have a soak in its medieval ex-Augustinian monastery surroundings. The move proved wise. The place, apart from its hot room, was cool and empty, and I spent six hours there, reading a book on journalists and spies, an excellent topic for Cyprus, having green tea and chilled cherries, and, obviously, from time to time, soaking and sweating.

I was alone, everybody else headed for the beach, wasn’t bothered by any phone calls since I had left both my mobiles at home, and surrounded by new age, ocean-like, slightly pukeable music that, nevertheless, did the job. Sophistication, comfort, luxury, it was a bliss. Frankly speaking if I was less selfish I would write a letter to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation suggesting that the hamam be put on a must visit list for tourists coming from Protaras or Ayia Napa to the capital, especially if they want to up the profile of tourists visiting the island. But since I like the space and emptiness of the present venue, I won’t do it. Let the place just be.

Still, I must say all of the above factors were in stark contrast to the ‘no-zen no-nonsense’ hamam that I visited about a month ago in Istanbul that was so crowded you had to queue to get in to be greeted by water, steam and whispers. For a while after entering it, I wandered around blindly, lost in the middle of tens of naked women and men of various colours, ages and nationalities, talking about their lovers, husbands and children, while being soaped vigorously. Finally I placed myself next to two ancient Turkish matrons who looked like Chinese centenarian twins, and an Italian fashion journalist visiting the town because of a wedding.

“We have been coming here since we were ten,” one of the Chinese twins told me while the journalist assessed the venue. “Vogue-style it isn’t,” she said at the end pointing towards several very fat bath attendants wearing huge white cotton knickers and pouring cold water on some Israelis. “But definitely very authentic.”

After a while we were both taken into the massage room where a masseuse looked at me inquiringly. “Wy gavaritie pa ruski?” she asked and when I nodded, poured out her Armenian soul to me. A graduate of Erevan’s Physiotherapist Institute, she was in Istanbul specifically to work in the hamam, and had been doing so for the last six months, six days a week, twelve hours a day, twenty to twenty five massages daily.

She had a son, was planning to move into the European Union zone as soon as possible and believed she would make it. Unlike Turkey that, she said, wouldn’t. “Are there many Armenians in Istanbul?” I asked. “Plenty,” she said. “There is a lot of work for us here.”

I remembered this conversation when at the Omeriye I saw the diploma of one of its masseuses hanging on the wall, all in Polish. “Damn it,” I thought. “Here you are. Where is your patriotism? You have been massaged by a Pole and haven’t noticed.”

I asked if it was the case and it wasn’t. My compatriot had a day off and I was massaged by a Bulgarian but yes, they had physiotherapists of various nationalities, like Poles, Bulgarians and sometimes even Chinese, and yes, they all had good old communist massage training, the one that used to be applied to the Soviet Union weight lifters and Romanian gymnasts.

“Yes, the world is not the same any more,” I sighed nostalgically and remembered what my left-wing, AKEL-voting bank manager had told me the previous day. “We have lost our battle and become slaves to capitalism,” he said. “We all work and work and work and have lost all the joys of living freely. If you want my advice, the best way forward is to get yourself a social insurance.”

I left the hamam and cycled across the Ledra Palace checkpoint towards the other side of the buffer zone, wondering about his words and determined to check what was going on in the Buyuk Hamam that was established more or less around the same time as the Omeriye on the remains of the 14th century church of St George of the Latins. Maybe, I speculated, some heartless capitalists had finally started renovating it, and Nicosia soon would have two of the nicest hamams in the world. But, as usual, before even getting close to it, I bumped into a friend who, when told about my mission, looked at me as if I was a lunatic.

“Are you crazy?” he said. “Nobody goes there but soldiers and gays from both communities. Forget it. Let’s go for a drink instead.” So there you are: three hamams and three entirely different universes.

Cyprus’s finest back in training July 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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It has been a busy month for football clubs in Cyprus as they prepare for the coming season and, in some cases, European competition.

Apollon signing
Champions Apollon Limassol FC, who will enter the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round for the first time in July, have signed Cypriot Under-21 international Antonis Panagi from Nea Salamis FC but appear to have lost Portuguese playmaker Hélio Pinto who, club officials say, has expressed no interest in remaining with the Limassol team. German coach Bernd Stange has kept quiet about his transfer targets and the squad are currently in the Troodos mountains training for their UEFA Champions League debut.

Omonia camp
UEFA Cup representatives AC Omonia will be travelling to Slovenia on 16 June to get ready for their opening UEFA Cup qualifier in July. The Greens have been boosted by the decision of midfielder Nicos Georgiou to extend his stay with the club by another year. Across town, Cypriot Cup winners and UEFA Cup hopefuls APOEL FC have made big changes, notably with the arrival of Greek coach Marinos Ouzounides who replaces former Poland boss Jerzy Engel. Meanwhile, the Cyprus Football Association has announced the fixtures for the 2006/07 campaign, with APOEL facing a tough start.

Tough start
Apart from any European assignments, Ouzounides’s men will meet Omonia in their first league match followed by a daunting trip to champions Apollon. They are away again in their third game, another tough encounter against Enosis Neon Paralimni FC. Finally, Ethnikos Achnas FC will be the first Cypriot side to see action in 2006/07 when they begin their UEFA Intertoto Cup campaign against Albanian outfit FK Partizani this weekend.