In November 2011, the Embros Theatre in the Psiri district of Athens was reopened by a collective of artists frustrated that such a valuable resources was being left to decay. Ran as a radical arts space for over a year, on the 27th November 2012, the Greek Ministry of Public Property attempted to shut down the theatre. Strongly opposed by the collective and the local community, the eviction was resisted and the theatre remains open providing space for artists and the community to dream, to create and to express themselves in a time when the future looks bleak.
On the 10th December, the theatre hosted”2050 Flashback – The System Changes” – a collaboration of the Berlin Theatre for Radical Change and Global Front Theatre in Athens, it explored the utopia which people created after the 2015 global revolution which rid the world of capitalism as well as looking back at the revolutionary events which had led to that utopia being possible.
Performed in a mixture of Greek and English with signing support built into the performance, it started with the computer generated “Global activist” explaining the new world which had been created once people decided that the needs of the people should take priority over the demands of profit. The new society which was created, with shared communal living, global focus, technology harnessed to provide teleportation and telepathy with animals, as well as holistic healthcare and peer-to-peer education programmes, provided by the autonomous university, was described through a mixture of mime, computer generated graphics and multilingual descriptions.
We were then invited to join a session of the autonomous university as it looked back at the Global Revolution of 2015, which had led to the creation of such a utopia. The rising awareness of global injustice and systemic crisis of capitalism which had occurred in the early part of the 21st Century had led to larger and larger gatherings of people all over the world, demanding that the system supported their hopes and ambitions, while Debt personified lorded over them demanding fed and crushing their dreams, deploying its forces to subdue the population. Yet still the gatherings grew, providing space for people to imagine a world without repression and gradually winning over more and more people to the cause.
Gradually people refused to participate in capitalism, buying nothing and starving the monster which had been created. Activists took out the computer systems which supported the system, while from all over Greece people gathered in Athens. When the hangings started in Syntagma Square, the people could take no more, and stormed the parliament. The police and military deployed to protect it, laid down their weapons influenced by arguments that they had heard over the previous few years, as they too started to dream of a better future. Inspired, the revolution spread everywhere, as people saw that capitalism was not the only way, and that a better world was possible.
The transitional period which followed saw people inexpertly try meet the needs of people in alternative ways. Noting that people had become accustomed to capitalism and competition, not all of the experiments were successful. Technology failures and interpersonal conflict made progress slower than it might have been, but the determination to build a new world and dreams of what was possible eventually made their utopia into a reality.
The discussion afterwards was enlightening. Several people commented how uplifting they had felt this performance to be. In a time of decay, when the future seems uncertain, the importance of hopes and dreams of a better future, as a motivation for struggle was highlighted. When homelessness, poverty and hunger appear immanent, people can become consumed by short-term survival, clinging to what they have losing sight of what is possible. And this is the arts at its best, providing space for people to imagine the world anew, opening their horizons and providing a vision that could nourish people’s spirits through the darkness.
Although both the actors and audience would probably identify more with anarchism than Marxism or socialism, there were a few points which particularly struck me. The depiction and awareness of the need for a transitional period, albeit a non-state version, and a commentator noting that the utopia presented was unrealistic as conflict was always a feature of all progress; that we will never arrive at a static utopia, but that conflict drives on social progress, showed an awareness of the dialectical method are not ideological points that I would necessarily have associated with anarchist philosophy, but it shows a new cohesion of radical thought. That while vulgar Marxism is denigrated, the key ideas of Marxist thought are being sifted out, dusted down and reinvented for new times.
It was a wonderful play. Put together at such short notice, with only two days of rehearsals between the two companies, it shows what can be created when people refuse to accept what they are told – dreaming instead of a world where theatres are self-run, the arts are free and accessible, and international collaboration is a bedrock of activism.
First published on Communique on 12th December 2012