Retro wave sweeps across Athens as nos­tal­gia pays off at the box of­fice

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY DIM­ITRIS RIGOPOULOS

On De­cem­ber 16, more than 2,000 peo­ple flocked to the Bad­minton The­ater in the eastern Athens sub­urb of Goudi to watch a trib­ute to Stella Greka, who, along with Sofia Vembo, Danae and the Kalouta sis­ters, was among the lead­ing pro­po­nents of what was known as “light” pop in the 1940s. A few weeks later, tick­ets also sold fast for a trib­ute to Mi­halis Sou­gioul, a com­poser ac­tive from the 1930s to the 50s who cre­ated the sounds that are today as­so­ci­ated closely with post­war and post-oc­cu­pa­tion Athens.

It sounds sur­real that on the eve of 2014, the Greek cap­i­tal’s big­gest orches­tra was per­form­ing mu­sic from the pe­riod be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter World War II, and not be­cause there is any­thing lack­ing in the qual­ity of the songs but be­cause it is sur­pris­ing that they should be so en­dur­ing and so pop­u­lar with such a broad con­tem­po­rary au­di­ence.

It ap­pears that retro works and the Bad­minton The­ater es­pe­cially has in­vested in this di­rec­tion – quite suc­cess­fully as well. The cri­sis has played its part be­cause it has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to bring im­pres­sive pop­u­lar in­ter­na­tional shows and acts to Greece.

So, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Bad­minton The­ater, Michalis Adam, and his as­so­ciates have turned to the con­cept of shows that trans­port the au­di­ence to a dif­fer­ent era rather than a dif­fer­ent world.

“To ev­ery era ex­cept our own, to be pre­cise,” said Adam in jest while dis­cussing why retro re­vivals have so much pop­u­lar ap­peal today.

In early 2012, and fol­low­ing the re­sound­ing suc­cess of the Greek Na­tional Opera’s tributes to Greek com­posers The­ofras­tos Sakel­lar­idis and Costas Gian­ni­dis, play­wright Lam­bros Li­avas worked with the Bad­minton The­ater on a pro­duc­tion that paid trib­ute to the Athe­nian com­poser and song­writer At­tik (1885-1944), which was the first of its kind to be­come a suc­cess – sell­ing more than 50,000 tick­ets – and marked the be- gin­ning of the retro trend.

The most re­cent trib­ute at the the­ater did even bet­ter than “Search­ing for At­tik” or sub­se­quent like-minded per­for­mances, as it has sold over 90,000 tick­ets so far and has been granted an ex­tended run due to pop­u­lar de­mand. The trib­ute, ti­tled “Tha se paro na fy­goume” (I Will Take You Away), is a mu­si­cal about the story of Greece as it was told on the stage in pop­u­lar re­vues.

A pro­duc­tion on the life and times of famed com­poser and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Mikis Theodor­akis had also sold some 70,000 tick­ets by the end of its run, while a show about chanteuses Marinella and Vembo start­ing on Jan­uary 15 is ex­pected to be an­other smash hit.

Adam be­lieves that retro mu­sic and the­ater al­ways strike a chord be­cause they pret­tify the past and be­cause “in times of cri­sis and col­lec­tive de­pres­sion, run­ning back­ward is seen as a way out. Have you con­sid­ered why there was no such thing as retro in the 1960s?”

The term “retro” emerged in Greece in the mid-1970s dur­ing the first OPEC cri­sis, while in the West, the trend was best en­cap­su­lated by the huge com­mer­cial suc­cess of the big-screen adap­ta­tion of “The Great Gatsby.”

Do you think that 30 years from now, this age, this dif­fi­cult yet fas­ci­nat­ing era, will be retro hip and there will be shows made about the cri­sis and 2010?

The ques­tion is rather rhetor­i­cal, be­cause that will most def­i­nitely be the case.

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