Diafani shares a unique and vibrant culture with Olymbos. The black clothes worn by the older women on a daily basis, the costumes worn for festive occasions, the food and music the dialect and way of life define To Chorio (the village) as being different from the rest of the world. Geographical isolation has never stopped the movement of these people, they are to be found in Iran, Congo, Japan and in large numbers in Baltimore. But everywhere they go they take with them their own values and tradition. To do otherwise is to risk being labelled an American, or worse. Those that remain lead outdoor lives ‘though a television is often on in the background, and there is the internet and the oddly named social media.
The world is full of monocultural media selling love as the sole emotion, one that is fixated with its own exchange rate equating love with sacrifice and humiliation:
I would give everything
My life is not worth living
I beg you to forgive me
and so on.
The false emotion with its sloppy, invasive language accompanied by tunes, so bland they cannot be whistled has devalued every society it has touched, especially amongst the young. And it is done for money.
So I feared the worse when I saw the flyer advertising the open air performance of Klytaimnistra in the village square. I know little of Greek Classical theatre, but learned the show was going to consist of an hour long monologue by a woman explaining why she murdered her husband Agamemnon and how she lured him to a bath where she ensnared him in a robe and then hacked him to death with a ceremonial axe: striking him three times, the last strike accompanied by a prayer to a god as if this were some animal being sacrificed.
Extracted from plays by the father of theatre, Aeschylus, the grand themes of the monologue include sin, murder, punishment and a fatalistic conception of human life. It did not seem to me that such a show was going to be a chart topper. Either nobody would turn up, or the crowd would be raucous and heckle the poor tragedian.
In the evening some 200 chairs were spread in a classic arc around the Plateia but by nine o’clock, the scheduled performance hour, just one lady sat there, all black and sombre in the middle of the front row, her cavai drawn over her head to protect her from the sea breeze. Then another came, and another and another, filling the front row from the middle outwards. A solid black phalanx of large ladies come to see what all this fuss was about, and no doubt to advise on the suitability of the play for viewing by their grandchildren. Husbands sat in the rows behind and tourists too drawn by the drama and then as the monologue commenced grandchildren were hushed and advised they could watch and they too were drawn in among the audience.
There was a hush throughout the village as the actress, the classically trained Evangaleia Balsama strutted her stuff: screaming and wailing, shouting and cursing; her long hair blowing in the wind like a banshee as she screaming at the infidelities of men and their lust for war and destruction and justifying the murder of her husband.
The audience was riveted. And why not? I have seen the gestures of the actress in everyday use by my neighbours: the clenching of fists, the arms upheld in supplication, the face upturned to God. I have seen the women rend their hair and scratch their faces in grief and shout and scream and wail. So the phalanx of black figures in the front row, nodded or sighed or gasped or raised their hands and muttered as the plot unfolded. And now I can understand these everyday actions were passed down from mother to daughter from the city of Athens for more than 2,500 years.
And then suddenly it is over. Silence, then applause and the crowd slowly disperses, emotionally drained, but, somehow cleansed, strengthend by their links with an ancient city. Katharsis and good acting worked their magic and the dross of 21st century ‘culture‘ is kept at bay a little longer.