The clarity of Kazantzakis’ vision speaks to an intellectual or pragmatic human being in equal measure. His work shows a moment in time that anyone can dive into; a fact that became abundantly clear one damp October evening in London, St Pancras International where I met Dr Lewis Owens, one of the leading academics on the work of Kazantzakis, and spoke to him of The Canting Crew’s latest experiences delving into the space between audience and actor, and evolving work that was to take place in that gap. As I went on to describe our interest in looking directly into the abyss to find our growing work; the more uncomfortable elements of humanity that most human beings prefer to look away from until the last moments of death; it resounded for Lewis, an organic exploration of the fundamental parts of life, encapsulated in the form of Kazantzakis’ previously unexplored Comedy. Thus the seeds were born to stage a production that brought the highest philosophical elements of Existentialism down to earth in the most realistic and human of ways, by actors trained to speak out uncomfortable truths, with intimacy and awareness.
From October to February a whirlwind of energetic discussions and collaborations fuelled the initial excitement: Niki Stavrou, the striking figurehead of the Kazantzakis Estate, added a flourish of inspiration to the project by offering her wholehearted support. She adopted this production and made it part of the wider endeavours on the international stage to unite the Kazantzakis network in one cohesive source of knowledge for everyone. With this network she has helped to broaden the scope of Kazantzakis’ influence, not just internationally, but also to audiences that had not previously had a chance to become exposed to his work – particularly Comedy.
At the same time, Lewis facilitated the introduction of Liz Smith and Mark Charles from EntertainingTV to the project, widening the scope of its impact to encompass a short film to document the play, and a longer piece to follow documenting the life of Kazantzakis himself.
As the project has evolved, the framework of the evening and an appropriate setting for such a powerful yet little-known work has taken on the utmost importance: we are so fortunate as to count in our midst for the following roundtable discussion, the leading academics Professor Roderick Beaton and Professor Darren Middleton, Niki Stavrou and Dr Lewis Owens himself all joining together to offer very different and compelling insights into Kazantzakis’ Comedy: A Tragedy in One Act in the context of his entire corpus of work.
I hope nothing. I fear nothing. I am free