She, Phaedra, and her obsession. Paul Curran speaks, the director of the tragedy which will debut in Syracuse on Saturday


By John

«She's a wife with a love that's not exactly forbidden. The main idea of ​​the Greeks is a love that means Eros, so it's not Disney-like: it's a deep, erotic love. It is a love that is difficult to understand because it is the basis, the sexual element of the human being, both woman and man.” Paul Curran recounts his «Phaedra (crown-bearing Hippolytus)», by Euripideswith the translation by Nicola Crocetti, which will debut on Saturday at the Greek theater in Syracuseprotagonist Alessandra Salamida, second tragedy on the bill for the classic performances of the Inda Foundation.

The Scottish director has directed productions at major theaters and opera houses around the world, from New York to London.
«Comparing with today – he says –, I see the basis of this love, the psychological state of the woman or any person. A woman who cannot understand the reason for this obsession: how it happened, when it happened, the strength of this love and this impulse that she cannot overcome. I immediately see a connection between the past and today: we talk a lot about our mental health. And 2500 years ago we are talking about the mental health of a woman that neither her servants nor her neighbors understand. So for me it's a very modern story.”

And mental health today is challenged by what she calls “unhealthy obsessions.”
«We are talking on a cell phone. This morning I have already been bombarded with thousands of information, more or less useless, on various things both by email, Instagram and Facebook. Every now and then, more often than ever, I disconnect from social media because my head feels absolutely full of various things. I can also compare this state with Phaedra's obsession because it is an external force that she, poor thing, cannot control. Even with social media: if you throw yourself into social media, we say in English “the rabbit hole of Youtube” where we enter, we follow one video after another with lots of information. So you go crazy and this information takes over your mind. It is very difficult to escape. The comparison is very clear for me.”

Are they the new gods who rule us?
«Who are the gods? At the time they were forces outside the human state, outside the power or control or human being. What gods do we have today? Over the last 150 years we have learned the world of psychology very well: there are flows that bombard us with information that we struggle to understand. Today even more so, because this is the era in which any person, a 70-80 year old person up to a six year old child, is bombarded with information. So who are the gods? It is these influences, these powers around us: the struggle of the human being is to control, to believe it, not to believe it. And it's very difficult. I think of today's young people who always compare themselves with those who ate pizza for lunch, those who buy more towels, those who take sugar with something, what kind of make-up one or the other does. It is a continuous bombardment which I find highly tiring. The Greeks taught us everything: the influence of the gods, of the untouchable powers on the lives of human beings and then how human beings manage to survive with these influences.”

How will you manage the space of the ancient cavea with respect to the actors?
«Working at the Greek Theater is a unique experience in the world. For me it is a challenge and an honor. It is a space where you enter and already feel magic. I never imagined I'd be directing here. It's a pretty empty space, even respecting the Greeks because the Greeks didn't make huge scenes to focus on the action of the actors. The scenography is very simple: I came last year to watch some reruns and I learned. The space for me must focus on the actor, so I gave them space but with the presence of a palace and a huge statue representing both the woman and the goddess. I prefer to leave the rest to the imagination of the spectators. The Palace is a scaffolding: Theseus has retired into exile in Athens, but it is not clear whether this palace is being restored or collapsing. The state of Theseus' life is not at all clear: he has had relationships with the Amazon, now with Phaedra, but also with Phaedra's sister, Ariadne. He is a man who has offended the gods in various ways and even continuously, and therefore the scenes are simple, the costumes a blend of modernism with an eye to the Greek past, but rather something in between. We will have projections, lights and various other things. I have actors who follow me at every step, they have found the freedom to express themselves because as I am a British Australian school director I distance myself from the Italian school. I did three days of training and lessons with the Adda students. With all the groups I've worked with over the last 30 years, I've never seen a group so focused, so eager to make this text.”