National Theatre at the Korydallos Prison

The prisoners in the psychiatric ward of Korydallos prison (Athens, Greece) performed the theatrical play “2nd Merarchia 43”. The CLOE team participated to the event and brought to you the results of this experience.

In Korydallos, at the end of Nikiforaki Street, behind the Town Hall, is the Korydallos Prisoners’ Psychiatric Hospital. We were there at noon on Sunday (20/3) at 12.00 to watch the performance “2nd Merarchia 43”, which had emerged from the Personal Development Workshop for Prisoners of the National Theatre, with Stathis Grapsas in charge of planning and implementation.

We enter a large area with plastic chairs and a large stage is set up in front of us. The back is painted in bright colours. This is the square in front of the 2nd Merarchias Street. The square that the prisoners themselves have “built” with their imagination.

The play is set in a square of Piraeus in the old Trouba. The owner of a three-storey “house” of the only building that has not yet been modernized. A real estate agent who is looking for the owner of 43, will make him an offer to buy it. Two interests will conflict. Two different philosophies about people and the essence of human existence and dignity will clash.

Within this play, the stories of all the heroes somehow magically intersect. Real events intertwine with fiction and ultimately create a coherent play with a beginning, middle and end. For a year and a half, these people, even online during the pandemic, have been trying to make something of their own. They were writing their dialogue, pitching their ideas and watching their imagination come to life. They had a motivation…

Through this performance, the therapeutic value and essence of art shone through. It became so overwhelmingly apparent how theatre art can be not only a powerful tool for learning and social intervention. As with their imagination, they wrote the play. With the help and guidance always of Stathis Grapsas and the National Theatre team.

In applause, it was extremely difficult to hold back our tears. It became clear how theatre art can also pave the way for us all to come a little closer together, free and imprisoned. For about an hour and a half, the prisoners gave new meaning to the Art of Theatre. They became our own Free Besieged. Without knowing what crime they were there for, they became our heroes. It will be hard to forget the looks on their faces at the bow, the enthusiastic applause, the one that put wings on their feet and “broke” the bars of the prison by re-inventing the entire prison system in us.

Georgia Kontou, director of the psychiatric ward of Korydallos prison, told us that all six prisoners during the Personal Development Workshop asked for Greek language lessons and those who did not know it asked for reading and writing lessons, to be able to participate in this activity as actively as possible and to perform their roles.

Stathis Grapsas, the head of the theatre group of the Psychiatric Hospital said that “these protagonists give me perspective”. Together with Vassilis Xiros, who has edited the music of the show, and played the bouzouki during the performance, and Evdokia Hlouveraki, who edited the costumes, they kissed and embraced warmly.

With the ultimate aim of contributing to the support of vulnerable social groups, the National Theatre has been implementing the Personal Development Workshop for prisoners in detention facilities since 2018.

The workshops take place at the Special Detention Facility for Young People of Vlora (EKKNA), at the Psychiatric Hospital for Prisoners of Korydallos (PSK). It is worth noting that during the period of the pandemic, these workshops continued to take place online.

This year, for the fifth consecutive year, the Personal Development Workshop for Prisoners (PDPD) is being implemented at the Korydallos Prisoners’ Psychiatric Hospital with Stathis Grapsas as the facilitator, whose methodology and his general contribution to the education and reformation of these socially vulnerable groups is widely recognized. The theatrical group of the Korydallos Prisoners’ Psychiatric Hospital receives valuable help from the philologist Angeliki Xarchakou, Vassilis Xiros and Georgia Kontou, actor-director Fanis Katehos.

About Stathis Grapsas

Having trained as an actor in Australia, the United Kingdom and Greece, he has performed in various cities across Europe, at the Ancient Theatre of Epidavros and the Herodus Atticus in Athens. He has also participated in the Theatre Olympics in Moscow with the Attis Theatre company.

In Post-war Belgrade (2000), he organized and conducted workshops for beneficiaries in 10 institutions for homeless and parentless children and youth. Worked as the assistant director for the BBC on location in Greece for the documentary based on the November 17 group.

In 2010, he undertook a project with migrant primary school students and presented an alarming text titled ‘Furtive Life’. In October of the same year, he organized a theatre workshop in a local prison where the inmates were boys aged between 15 to 21. It was a voluntary initiative that ran for 3 years. He has also conducted workshops for the Korydallos Psychiatric Prison and the Epanodos Organisation which assists with re-integration upon release from prison.
He was an instructor/director at Hydrama Theatre and Arts Centre for 10 years (2003 – 2013).

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