Euripides Laskaridis Transmuted Artistic Misery Into Creative Success
The offbeat, hybrid stage productions of Greek performer and director Euripides Laskaridis have found an unexpected home in the world of contemporary dance.
By 2012, the Greek actor and director Euripides Laskaridis had had a fifteen-year-long career in television and theatre, working with household names and well on his way to national acclaim himself. He was also, in his own words, “absolutely miserable.” So he gave himself an ultimatum: create a performance in which he could “enjoy every single second” of being on stage, or quit his profession for good.
Three years later, the resulting solo, Relic, premiered at the Aerowaves Spring Forward showcase in Barcelona, finally launching him, at the age of forty, into the artistic career he had long hoped for. His creations – including his 2017 duo Titans and the 2019 group piece Elenit – have been touring across Europe, the Middle East, and North America for the last eight years. “I was lucky because I never thought I was doing dance or choreography,” says Laskaridis, whose self-described “quirky” pieces have found a home in the world of contemporary dance.
The trilogy he has created defies easy categorisation. It exists at the intersection of cabaret, burlesque, drag, commedia dell’arte, vaudeville, Tanztheater, installation art, and object theatre. Laskaridis calls his work “3D embroidery”: the spatial universe that he builds is, he says, “just as much about lights and sounds and objects as the body and the voice.”
His approach to format and structure is influenced by Dimitris Papaioannou, an avant-garde Greek choreographer for whom he has performed several times. Laskaridis first saw Papaioannou’s work in the mid-nineties, while an acting and architecture student, and was struck by his “love and care for visual poetry.” Papaioannou, who studied painting and began his artistic career making comics, “uses the stage as a canvas” says Laskaridis.
Laskaridis’s professional training for the stage, however, was based on other approaches. At the Karolos Koun Art Theatre, in his native Athens, he was introduced to pantomime by his mentor Mimis Kougioumtzis. He was also taught the Stanislavski method of acting, which he describes as “a way of connecting to a part or a role through internal processes.” Though that approach to creating character “always felt fake” to Laskaridis, it took a long time for him to admit that he found it “very difficult to find honest feelings and then, through that, create character.”
Laskaridis, whose father and sister are both architects, says that, for him, “form comes before feeling.” His rehearsal process involves allowing himself to indulge in a lot of “big no-nos” – the things he was told explicitly not to do throughout his training (which included a Master’s degree in theatre directing from Brooklyn College in New York). He was taught, for example, that working with a mirror was a sign of being “preoccupied with your appearance,” but he finds it a useful tool for visually connecting with his own explorations of movement and line. And, even though they were given low value by his teachers, he prizes physicality and grotesqueness while embodying what drives his creative process: “the spark of a new creature.”
The creature he embodies in Relic was described by critic Lyn Gardner as an “outlandish” mashup of Dame Edna, Leigh Bowery, and Marge Simpson. Its aesthetic is resolutely low-rent and DIY, harking back to Laskaridis’s first experiences with making theatre in secondary school, which he says “set the tone” for his later creations. His English teacher, Maria Chrysomalli-Katzourakis, introduced him to the absurd plays of Eugène Ionesco and gave him his very first opportunity to perform – as a human transformed into an animal by the goddess Circe, in a children’s production of the Odyssey. “She had this very handmade style because she didn't have a lot of means,” says Laskaridis. “She would just grab a wig, or put a moustache on us, or draw our lips with lipstick.”
According to his dramaturge Alexandros Mistriotis, reconnecting with this sense of “primal play” was vital to Laskaridis becoming the artist he is today. In the process of creating Relic, Laskaridis recruited his friend Tatiana Bre as an early collaborator. Bre has a “crazy, daring sense of humour,” says Mistriotis. “They would have fun, and she would be there for him – a friend that he could trust and with whom he could laugh.” Laskaridis says that he was “trying to find again the sheer joy and pleasure” he remembered from the sixth grade.
This permission to fully own one’s idiosyncrasies is something that Laskaridis now tries to impart to students and emerging artists in his workshops. (As part of the 2023 edition of Camping at the CN D in Pantin, France, he will lead a workshop exploring ridicule and transformation, in addition to performing Relic.) Nobody ever came to him and said, “if this is your source, if this is the fountain where you find fresh water, then go full-heartedly in that direction,” he says. “It took me years before I discovered what kind of artist I am and what makes me happy on stage.”
Katie Kheriji-Watts is an arts worker and a culture journalist based in Paris. Raised in California, she’s spent the last fifteen years working internationally across the visual and performing arts, media, design, and education. She is the creator and host of Points of Entry, a podcast about reimagining cultural organisations in a rapidly changing world.