The First Ladies by Werner Schwab

Zoe Chatziantoniou

Athens Epidaurus Festival

July 2017

Little-known in Greece, Austrian playwright Werner Schwab is generally considered to have revamped expressionism. His body of work explores the theme of repulsion from the perspective of a distinctly Austrian tradition of black comedy. His first play, The Chair Women (Die Präsidentinnen), was presented in 1990 at the Theater im Künstlerhaus in Vienna. The titular characters are Erna and Grete, both retired cleaning ladies, and Mariedl, a cleaning lady who specializes in unblocking toilets. Neither of them is an active agent of speech; rather, in the author’s own words, language “drags the persons along behind itself; like tin boxes, tied to a dog’s tail.” Erna, Grete, and Mariedl come together to celebrate Christmas, and Erna’s new colour TV. Their spiritual horizon can never expand beyond bourgeois banalities, violence, and religious fanaticism. They live in a fantasy world. The loss of control over their fantasies precipitates a horrific climax.

Translation| Giorgos Depastas
Direction - Dramaturgy| Zoe Chatziantoniou
Set design| Elina Loukou
Costume design| Ioanna Tsami
Cast| Maria Katsiadaki (Grete), Roula Pateraki (Erna), Evi Saoulidou (Mariedl)

trailer | Olga Brouma