Renos Nicos Spanoudes is one of those rare people who does it all. An academic educator with a Masters Degree in Urban Geography, a degree which looks at the place of the of “corner cafe” in Greek immigrant culture in South Africa, Spanoudes tends to create work which is authentic to his experience as a first generation South African of Greek-Cypriot parentage. Broken Plates is his latest such work. It is also the first work where he has written and performed the work, directed in this case by Loren Rae Nel in one of its previous incarnations, but self directed in this manifestation.
From an accessibility point of view, Spanoudes makes this work easily comprehensible to every audience member. He takes on his father’s persona, gives himself a wife and daughter and becomes the MC at his daughter’s wedding. He explains both why and how the plates are to be broken. Then he sidetracks into two personal stories. The first is his daily reality – a teacher in 2016. The second is his mother’s story.
The first persona is amusing. He interacts with the audience as the father of the bride to the guests. He invites us to break plates and teaches us to dance. The other two stories are sad, poignant really. They are broadly linked by “plates”, but they don’t really need the link. They are powerful and valid tales on their own.
Spanoudes is a drama teacher. He creates very plausible characters drawn from his own life experiences. These characters take on their own life in his skilled dramatisation. One is drawn into his life, his memories, his parents’ stories. Overall the work is deceptively simple – just a part of any first generation South African’s history – but one can peel layer upon layer of cultural and personal richness from the work as it unravels.
What makes this work very special is the vulnerability of Spanoudes as he allows his demons, past and present, to be chased by the breaking of plates and joy to enter in. Opa!
Broken Plates is not a new creation. Spanoudes has been working at it for quite a while now, taking notes from various people. He acknowledges his sources, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Zorba the Greek both inspired him.
I was charmed from start to finish with a peek into the personal life of this particular first generation South African with a rich heritage from his Greek-Cypriot parents. I wish I had been brave enough to break plates while refusing to dance.
There are a whole list of credits – people who have given valuable input into the work, and sponsors. It feels like a community work, humbly presented as a gift to the South African theatre community by this wonderful creator and performer.
Over all this is a lovely evening out with enough to think about, but still an escape from life’s sombre realities. Thank you Renos Nicos Spanoudes and Daphne Kuhn and her team at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton where Broken Plates runs until 9 July 2016. Book on 011 883 8606 or http://www.strictlytickets.com.