Encounters in Cyprus
Having a Cypriot Coffee with ... Achim Wieland and Marios Ioannou
Achim (artist/designer, director) and Marios (actor, director), the founders of the Theater Collective SRSLYyours, have collaborated on various stage projects for eight years and their plays, “Woyzeck” and “Fear Industry”, attract international attention. The Goethe Institute wanted to know why they are so successful together and met with them for a coffee at the “Garden Day & Night” in Nicosia.
Let's start with the most important question – how do you take your coffee?
Achim: Without sugar.
Marios: Skettos for me too. But we do not have to explain why, right?
Don’t worry, that would be going a little too far! But tell us more about how a German-Cypriot collaboration like yours works?
Marios: Achim always wants me to structure my thoughts but I, in contrast, prefer to work using my impulses. But that really works because he comes from a place where people are able to control their impulses.
Achim: Our cooperation works because we approach our work so differently. We formulate thoughts in different ways. Marios integrates emotions and he thinks linearly, just as a story-teller would. But I always look for synergies, for new elements. This is what makes our projects so unique, both in terms of content and dramaturgy.
Which part of your artistry would you say is the most similar between you both?
Achim: Poetry and honesty.
Marios: We love it when something happens in the room during rehearsals or performances – we love to create reactions and release inspiration. There are various ways to get there – the intellectual path and the emotional path. I am a traditional actor, my job is it to make people feel.
Achim: Poetry is manifold in this sense: condensed thoughts, contradictions or beauty, none of which immediately reveal themselves.
Marios: Fantasy is not unleashed by knowledge, but when we have touched hearts we have succeeded in our own special way.
Marios: With Fear Industry in Bremen, emotions exploded in the audience, we felt as though we were playing for Italians! But in Zurich and Stuttgart, for example, the reaction was more modest. But the laughs always come in the same place, no matter which country we play in. With Woyzeck we have a Mediterranean approach to jealousy, to strong emotions.
Achim: The difference in the final applause or the overall assessment of the play is marginal. However, I particularly like it in Cyprus where you can feel the reaction of the audience by their faces and their reactions. This type of visible presence helps the performers on stage.
Marios: When it comes to expressing such emotions the Germans are perhaps more reserved or minimalistic. But people are people no matter where you are. Touch their hearts, and they understand you, even if you speak in another language. Anxiety and jealousy are instincts that are understood by all cultures.
What do you think is your contribution to the artistic landscape in Cyprus?
Achim: In Cyprus the predominant form of theatre is very traditional, with clear and somewhat limited forms. Especially in State Theatre, far too little experimentation is dared. What we can contribute is a way to break the cycle of these conservative forms. We mainly work in the “Devised Theatre” style: the script is worked out during rehearsal through improvisation. In this way much more contemporary, or let’s say everyday, material finds its way into the play. So through honesty, poetry and, perhaps, innocence a theatre performance arises. For us, feelings and content is much more important than strict forms – this makes our work more multi-dimensional. My hope is that this way we can open up an audience to be able to read between the lines, to be observers that react to visual impulses and do not focus exclusively on the central statements.
Marios: I would like to take the weight from the public's shoulders and load it onto mine. You do not need to be highly educated to enjoy the art of theatre. There are too many studies, too much analysis. Birds can fly, full stop. It is not necessary to investigate why they can do that. It doesn’t matter. WE can fly! Expensive buildings are not needed to make theatre that touches people. It is all about finding access to the people who do not normally go to the theatre. I like playing in the wrong places – for example, performing monologues of Gogol in the Kafeneion. If someone wants to chat while I recite – go ahead! It’s fine by me. But it is great when, afterwards, the people tell me: “Come back!” Our next project, Myths and Tales From Across the Divide will take place on a basketball field. To us, the unexpected is most important.