SrslyYours Ensemble - 60 Years Treffpunkt Goethe - Goethe-Institut Cyprus

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SrslyYours Ensemble

Marios Ioannou and Achim Wieland, Co-Artistic Directors / SrslyYours Ensemble
Photos: Nicolas Iordanou/Jessica Nilsson

I remember vividly the staging of our first Woyzeck, a wild affair collapsing Büchner's dozen-something characters into two. On stage were Niovi Charalambous and Marios Ioannou. After the performance, I received a phonecall from Ute Wörmann-Stylianou, director of the Goethe-Zentrum at the time, asking: Can we collaborate? Those words marked the beginning of a 15-year affair that would eventually bring us in contact with some of the most inspiring, authentic and culturally driven people – men and women with their hearts in the right place.

Before our first encounter, we walk along the Pedieos River, through the Municipal Gardens, through the checkpoint. A first realisation that this specific spot is not chosen by accident. A reconfirmation of heart, urgency, authenticity, collaboration, care. A rare determination to bring people together. Showing our passports, walking past the guards, we enter the garden surrounding the auditorium which shall later became the host to many of our rehearsals. Rose bushes everywhere, a proud Bougainvillea tree, a distant sound of water trickling, two cats in the sun. Everything about this place and its people speaks “welcome", “enter", "rest for a little while”. We enter a room which doesn’t look like an office but a library. “I’m Ute”. She sits behind her desk with a kind smile. A year later came the twenty year anniversary of the “Fall of the Berlin wall” and Ute with an honouring proposition. “If you Fall”, a performance for 2 actors, 2 performers and 1 cellist, with texts by Niki Marangou. A first staging outside of Cyprus became a reality. Niki's memories of “her” Berlin, brought us from Nicosia to Cologne, to Stuttgart, to Berlin.

As years were floating along Pedieos’ various branches, our ideas crossed the desk of Björn Luley who continued to support our work. A few phonecalls and 6 months later, we re-staged our two-character Woyzeck along with an invitation of Dr. Frank Raddatz, Büchner specialist and editor at “Theater der Zeit”, writing an article on our performance: “This bare rendering of Woyzeck, makes the fictive, the imaginary and mysterious an actor behind the scenes and motives, something Joseph Vogl announces as "the ghost of capital". In this way the Ensemble puts Büchner’s world in the cosmos of Sarah Kane —Woyzeck operates at the same heights or depths as the lost and damned stage personnel of the British playwright.”We were in disbelief and overwhelmed by this gift. Goethe opened this lovely door for us and through it we slipped onto stages in Zurich and Berlin with 5 Cypriot actors and artists in tow. Back in Cyprus, Björn, along with Christiane Wassmann, inspired and initiated the collaborations with the Pancyprian Gymnasium to teach youth theatre workshops on physical and mental barriers and the urgency of a peaceful coexistence on this precious planet. Unforgettable performances for both participants and spectators followed in museums and during a rainy afternoon in a schoolyard filled with people.

Another walk along the Pedieos River. Another crossing of the checkpoint. A sudden realisation that this backyard, these roses, this trickling sound of water has become something like home. We enter the office to meet Johannes Dahl, new director of the Goethe. A passionate man full of enthusiasm and before we could finish our introduction he interrupts: “What would be an interesting project to take part in the celebration of the European Capital of Culture in Pafos? How can we collaborate?”. Half an hour later we brainstorm over coffee at the Home for Cooperation across the street. Name of the project: Myths and tales from/across the Divide. The goal: An honest and unfiltered exchange of personal stories striving for a new perspective of each other to support cross-communal dialogue and understanding. Doggul, Onur, Ayse, and Havva, Cypriots from the northern part of the island entering from one side of the UN Buffer Zone, Vicky, Demetra, Anthi, Andria, Marianna, and Dafni entering through the checkpoint from the southern part of the island. There we met every Sunday for three months, opening up to one another in a common home. Our Goethe home. Staged within the framework of the European Capital of Culture 2017, the workshop and performance proved to us the impossible – that mental walls can indeed be broken, that our perceptions can change.

In recent years Pedieos river brought more gifts, the Bougainvillea in the garden grew more, the cats gave birth to more cats. And again the same worry that the new director might not be as interested in our work, in the performing arts in general. Then we meet. Karin in the wooden office of the Institute offering time to listen, to exchange, to discuss future ideas. There is an instant trust. What follows is her expert guidance in transitioning our precious project to the stages of Pafos 2017. The year after she became an inspiration and reliable partner during our Artistic Direction of the Buffer-Fringe Festival 2018, offering her full and invaluable support in several artistic development projects and playing a key role in bringing world-renowned Rimini Protokoll to our festival. Not one but five collaborations took place with Karin at the helm. Recent years also brought Womanhood, a project dedicated to women. Tea Ceremony (with Marios Ioannou in the role of a Geisha), which has toured to eight countries and two dozen stages in Europe, and Picture Perfect, a performance which Karin embraced for its contemporary relevance, prompting her to invite experts on images and image-making to the DialogRaumGoethe, a new lecture series and wonderful initiative developing under Karin's wings.

Thank you Karin. Thank you Johannes. Thank you Björn. Thank you Ute. Thank you for your inspiring and kind ways.

Thanks to the incredible Goethe staff for your care, passion and support you have given us over the years.

Happy anniversary to you all.