Bertrand Lesca, Co-Artistic Director of FellSwoop Theatre, explores the making of their show EUROHOUSE and the impact it’s had on audiences post-Brexit.
Nasi is half Greek. When I met him in Edinburgh last year and we began our journey towards making EUROHOUSE he had just returned from Athens, where his father grew up.
I had spent the last few years reading everything I could find on Greece and its state of affairs; I was interested in making a show about what had happened during the referendum of July 2015, when 61% of the population—in spite of the closures of most banks and the threat of Grexit—had voted against the proposals laid out by the EU.
Somewhere in Europe, people were fighting against the political status quo. I hoped that what was happening in Greece would inspire other Europeans to lead a similar fight against neo-liberal elites. For me this narrative was important because it was, “the first time people had defiantly said ‘No’ to an ultimatum from Europe’s ruling powers, on such a scale,” as Stathis Kouvelakis wrote.
Once we managed to get a partnership with a venue in Greece and some funding, Nasi and I set off to spend ten days in Athens in order to rehearse this new piece and talk to as many people as we could. As ‘non-nationals’ we were often worried that we were not qualified to tell the story of Greece and its crisis. Yet everyone that helped us along the way made us feel that this story was absolutely ours to tell, as two Europeans who wanted to share the story in the UK.
The majority of the people we met in Athens hoped the UK would vote ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum. It was no real surprise to us given what we witnessed in Greece: we saw was a country in ruins with rampant poverty now dealing with a major refugee crisis. Nevertheless, back in the UK on the night of the elections, my face dropped just like those of the BBC presenters at 5 o’clock in the morning: although I had remained critical about the EU, the impact of the result suddenly dawned on me.
I started thinking about how the vote would change the way people would perceive EUROHOUSE. The show was aiming to present the crushing aspects of EU policy on Greece at a time when Britain was deciding whether they should ‘leave’ or ‘remain’, but I was surprised when some friends came to see the show three days after the referendum and admitted that it had made them feel good about ‘Brexit’—even though they had voted to stay in.
I understood that we need to think about how European nations will relate to one another through stories. The web gives us the impression that we know each other, but it is only when entering into contact with other people and other narratives that our own world seems to alter or take on a different meaning. It is not simple idealism to say that stories from Greece and other parts of Europe offer new perspectives, and are relevant to us all regardless of our nationalities. This is what European theatre strives for and what we should aspire to keep creating despite the consequences of this vote in years to come.
Bertrand Lesca is a French-born theatre director and performer. He has been the co-artistic director of FellSwoop Theatre since 2010.
EUROHOUSE, created by Bertrand Lesca & Nasi Voutsas and co-produced by Fellswoop Theatre, will be performed at Outpost, Royal William Yard on Wednesday 12 and Thursday 13 October at 8pm.
Tickets £9/£6 concessions. Book online or call the Box Office on 01752 267131 (Mon-Fri 11am-6pm).