Lara Johnson-Wheeler: Tell me about today, shooting with Nick Knight.
Karyofillia Karambeti: Today was an amazing experience because I saw Nick Knight working. It was such a positive feeling. He’s so creative, he does not push or insult you. It’s co-operation with a strong energy. He knows what he wants very well and he just tells you or asks you in a very polite way. That inspires you to give your best. That was very useful for me as an actress, that I had this very physical experience.
LJW: The play itself is physical in a very different way. How was this different to the way you are directed normally, exploring a new physicality?
KK: We have a choreographer who happens to be British. She’s very specific about the choreography, the rhythm and the timing and the shapes of the company of the group. We have to follow the music and this element and it’s a collaborative work.
LJW: Tell me about the part of the mother and how it is playing your role in the Bacchae.
KK: The play is an amazing tragedy. Our performance is adapted by our director, it is shortened, and the myth comes to the modern era. It tells a story to the modern world because we have lost our faith in the power of oneself. We don’t know if they [the Gods] exist or not but we feel alone in this cruel world, very depressed. This play is about the God of pleasure, physical pleasure. Dionysus; the God of love, sex, wine, the theatre, the art.
LJW: I want to pick up on the idea of theatre. The way that Aris [Biniaris] is telling the play is as a parable in itself. Tell me about how it came about working like that?
KK: It was his own idea and he worked on it with his assistant who is a drummer. They adapted the play first and then he played with his musicians, the bassist and the drummer and together they created the music and they put the words into music. The text has been created by lines which are in Eurpides’s original text. They are lines from the king, the God, the mother. They are all put together. When we started the rehearsal we had the music already ready and the text also. Little by little we started working with the text because the idea is that all the actors are in this state from beginning to end. The parts emerge from the group.
LJW: Tell me about working with the musicians, the musical element.
KK: It’s very interesting because you have the power of the rhythm and energy that comes from them through their instrument. They have great energy and you try to compose the text and the music of the body. You’re an actor, musician and dancer all together. It’s very interesting.
LJW: In your role as the mother, you dismember your son who has been transformed. I want to ask how you approach transformation as an actress?
KK: First of all, this is the central idea of acting in the theatre; you always are transforming yourself into something else in the part. You’re never the same character as the part you’re playing. You always have to make your imagination work. You have to open your spirit, your fantasy, your sentiments, your soul in order to go inside the other person and understand the way it is received into the world.
LJW: In the play, the props are very significant. I read in the notes there is this idea that a scythe could transform a character from human to animal or a rod from woman to man. Is this something you have worked with before?
KK: No, I think it’s the first time I have done that. It really interests me a lot because it’s not the typical approach. You have to go deeper, to leave yourself and let yourself free so that one simple object helps you to be transformed through this and to give the audience the idea this is what the theatre is about. It’s so simple. We say we play at the theatre, it’s a game of magic and imagination. This is what makes the audience come and pay and see something because they don’t want to see something that is common. They want to see something fresh, new and modern. Something that will help them develop themselves spiritually.
LJW: Did working on this play help you develop yourself as an actress?
KK: I think so. I think also that the experience today is a reference moment in my life because although I have had the honour to work with some big directors, I have never worked with a great photographer and great artist like Nick Knight before.
LJW: Did you feel today was very different wearing fashion and being in front of a camera rather than an audience? What was the distinction in the way that you held yourself?
KK: Yes, of course. I think it is different but the idea is the same. I was mostly like a performer but I knew I had the eye of an artist of the photographer. I gave all of me to live in the moment, as if I was the mother who tears apart an animal. Now, I have this experience and it will be useful to me in the performance. I know what it means to use all your strength to do such things. It’s not a simple thing. Behind it, it’s a lot of effort and strength of power and also a lot of ecstasy. I was using a dead animal and I thought how it’d be if that animal was alive. How enormously full of effort this woman should be in that moment to achieve this big thing.
LJW: You feel like you learned today?
KK: I learned many things. I have never dealt with a dead animal. All this kind of energy is divine, it’s a gift. It’s one of the most important things in our existence, people usually forget about that or they have taboo speaking or dealing with that. Our society has become very conservative, it’s the whole thing about the development of technology etc. We have forgotten about the part of ourselves that is divine.