“You, Animal Machine” is a non-conformity theatre performance that shares enough realistic reference to engage the spectator, but dives into an intuitive journey through the senses.

“It is all very well to copy what one sees, but it is far better to draw what one only sees in one’s memory. That is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.” Edgar Degas
“You Animal Machıne”, is the story of a being that was born female, that grew up in confinement, like a leopard in a cage: a beast of splendor that you watch in awe, wish to pet them velvet fur, fear their power to devour you, while their subtle movements hypnotize you. Melena, the Leopard Girl, Helene Papamarkou, all three of them were one person that has existed. She was a daughter, a burlesque dancer, a mother, a grandmother, a being of the nature that calmed their soul in the desert. Eleni Sikelianos is narrating her story, but not in geometrical perspective, it is a twirl of sentiments and frictions of memories all embedded in a chronicle of life, as this was, is and shall always be through the biological thread of offsprings.
Tonia Ralli, directs the “Leopard Girl”, and for a subtle minute, right there at the opening scene you may think it is her, that will take you by the hand as this beautiful time worn fresco starts unraveling in front of you. Tonia Ralli follows the memory pigments from Jon Diamonds’ travel journey to the USA, on a boat with a city on fire in the background, to the desert paradise of Melena. Eleni Sikellianos is recording the manifestations of a beings’ self reinvention, a process of magic, and to this she is interchanging genres. Following the author’s mandate so does Tonia Ralli by interchanging the documentary scenes of actual interviews, and burlesque choreographies with less realistic rather impressionistic scenes.
Six performers take down the memory lane of the events, depict characters and revive scenes from the lives of Melena, the lives she lived, the lives of her parents, her daughters, granddaughters, scenes of luxury and scenes of demise. Choreographies, and exceptional acting by all six. Elena Meggreli, is exquisite while explaining the origins of burlesque during her interview scene, she has a chameleon energy on stage that attracts you. Margarita Alexiadi is beautiful and doesn’t hesitate to bruise the beauty with grotesque as the “famished aunt” or the can-can dancer who is not “in the mood” for dancing. Nantia Margariti, mostly impersonates the “Leopard Girl”, and by doing so she travels a path from sensuality to exposure, her costume – dance – lifestyle is a shield that eventually is too heavy to carry. Opposite to her is the performance of Athena Wasbon, who spikes the somatic – non verbal performance with outspoken laryngismus and a plastic movement. The scene where Athena crawls under the set construction, mirroring the side posture of Konstantina Skandali, as the background points to a red tunnel is a moment of poetry. Chrysa Fytiza is a discrete but memorable presence throughout the play.
The show has equally realistic and impressionistic scenes; it bounces from fleeting moments in time to distinct feelings as it follows the flow of the mixed narration. Light design plays a tremendous role in the performance, the final scene is in the dark, light choreographed by a flash that Nantia Margariti holds. The wonderful costumes of Christina Sotiropoulou fully apprehend the aesthetics and at the same time give a historical poetry, as all six performers wearing coats and moving in synergy bring memories of posters featuring women during the World Wars. The video art, by Anastasia Giannaki and Ana Rosa Marx, projected in the background, adds value to the final scenes and offers an abstract reminiscent of the path to self-actualization.
“You, Animal Machine” is a non-conformity theatre performance that shares enough realistic reference to engage the spectator, but dives into an intuitive journey through the senses.
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