Alexander Raptotasios is a London-based theatre director from Greece, working freelance and as the artistic director of Ferodo Bridges CIC. He has studied Visual Art & Performance at Brighton University, Physical Theatre at St. Mary’s University and Directing at LAMDA.
His recent work includes ‘Macbeth’ (Pleasance, London), ‘Our Last Gig’ (LAMDA studios), Primark on Acid (3Space) and ‘Across the Border’ (BAC, Camden Fringe) which travelled to S. Korea, winning the Best New Director and Best New Play awards at the Miryang Festival in 2012. Other work includes assisting directing for the Actors Touring Company and Theatre Rites, and producing for Vacuum Theatre.
London Prestige Interview with Director Alexander Raptotasios
London Prestige: How long have you been making films and videos?
Alexander Raptotasios: I have been making theatre since I was 19, starting at Fringe festivals around the UK and Athens and moving on to alternative London spaces and venues.
London Prestige: What is your recent film about?
Alexander Raptotasios: The latest play I have created and directed is ‘The White Plague‘, an exploration of the darkest and brightest aspects of human nature. It follows five characters that find themselves locked in an asylum as part of quarantine measures taken to deal with a mass outbreak of a blindness epidemic. It is an extreme scenario but I think the pressure it puts on the characters is ideal for revealing and exploring the nature of our survival instincts but also the change that occurs in people during a crisis. On top of that we have the audience deprived if sight for quite some time during the show and thus we allow them to live in the quarantined facility amongst the characters. We use sound, smells and special effects to really immerse them in the story and probe their imagination to visualise everything that happens around them.
London Prestige: How did you go about casting for this film?
Alexander Raptotasios: Casting for this project came from a combination of actors and creatives I have worked with in the past and auditions that took place in London. I first created the project in Athens, Greece and now in its re-imagining for London I wanted to put together a team that would reflect London’s diversity as much as possible. Our whole team comes from across London, the UK, India, Spain, Greece, Israel and the Seychelles.
Written & Directed by Alexander Raptotasios
Adaptation in English & Dramaturgy by Gul Y. Davis
Designed by Marie-Cecil Inglessi
Associate Director: Esther Fernández
Produced by James Haddrell
Associate Artist Vicky Kyriakoulakou
London Prestige: What do you hope people will take away from the film?
Alexander Raptotasios: I hope that our audience takes away an experience that will make them rethink what they would do in a crisis and if they would be someone who would survive at the expense of someone else or someone that would help people around them. It is the classic conflict between collectivism Vs. individualism that I think is very potent nowadays and it will keep being relevant as our cities grow bigger.
London Prestige: What do you hope to achieve by the story?
Alexander Raptotasios: This political play has a story that I think needs to be told across cities everywhere, and what we hope is to continue with a further run in London and tour this work in the UK and the U.S. Its script is made in a flexible way that adapts the story to any city it is performed in so we want to expand this project and tour the current production or remake it in other parts of the world with a local cast that will reflect the local community.
London Prestige: When is the next show?
Alexander Raptotasios: We have 10 more performances to go in London from 12-22 April 2018 at the Landor_Space and we are in talks to do more shows at the Greenwich Theatre, other venues across London and the UK. The Greek version of the show run in Athens last December-January and will resume the following October for a 6-month run.
London Prestige: Tell us a bit about your other projects.
Alexander Raptotasios: Our last project was a karaoke-infused dinner party telling the story of Shakespeare’s infamous couple, the Macbeths. It was set around metal tables resembling a butcher shop and we invited the audience to partake in a classy dinner party full of red wine and red meats that explored pop culture’s aesthetisation of violence and our habit as audience members to ‘consume’ violence in everyday life. Before that I had devised a mad gig-theatre piece that took place in a club and got the audience through a party meant to prepare them for the end of the world. In general I love to mix pop and trash culture with immersive elements and political commentary.
London Prestige: What makes beautiful art in your opinion?
Alexander Raptotasios: Beauty is a very subjective term. For me beautiful art – as in good art – takes place when audiences are affected and unsettled every step of the way. Beautiful art is not something you can hang on your living room wall to have cocktails next to, that is decorative art. Beautiful art is the art that is made right now for the people who will experience it right now in the most direct and honest way possible.
London Prestige: Which other plays that you’ve seen have made an impact on you, personally?
Alexander Raptotasios: Theatre-wise I have been greatly affected by Complicite’s production ‘The Encounter’ but also Forced Entertainment’s work, and especially their shows Quizzola, Tabletop Shakespeare and The Notebook. Robert Icke has also been a contemporary theatre maker closer to my age that I have a lot of admiration for, and also Shunt and Nigel Barret who have a bit of a cult status in London and I have followed for years – their shows are always an unexpected and delightful surprise that keeps you asking for more.
London Prestige: How has your style evolved?
Alexander Raptotasios: I started from a performance art background and slowly made my way into theatre. Initially I was solely occupied with visuals as a means to tell a story, and along the way I borrowed practices from physical theatre and ensemble work that informed my style with a playful tone. Later, I worked with Vacuum Theatre which was a company focusing on meta-theatre and this really shifted my focus and style towards incorporating the audience’s presence in everything I do. Finally I had the luck to be around famous immersive theatre companies that affected my outlook towards performance (Shunt, Secret Cinema and Punchdrunk). Now I cannot look at anything I want to do without asking first, what is the audience doing at this point and how can we make them feel or experience things in a visceral or an immersive way.
London Prestige: What skills/personal attributes are most important to being successful?
Alexander Raptotasios: I have no idea what makes you successful. When I’m there I’ll let you know.
London Prestige: What other hobbies do you have?
Alexander Raptotasios: I cook a lot and host dinner parties, which is another kind of theatre in its own right. I also like trips in nature or simply travelling to unknown places and exploring small towns around Greece and Asia.
London Prestige: What are you thinking about doing next?
Alexander Raptotasios: I really want this project to continue outside London in the UK but also to recreate it in other countries. I feel it has something different to say in every place it goes and I love how it gets adapted and renews itself in every place it is performed in.
London Prestige: Where does your studio want to go from here?
Alexander Raptotasios: I am planning a new project that could start in Athens or London – it is a new play based on the cult ‘The People’s Temple’ and its pastor Jim Jones. It is an incredible real story of a huge group of people that hoped to create a utopia away from modern capitalism but ended in the biggest suicide in modern history. I know it does not sound like a lot of fun but I think the stories of the people of this tale and the amazing character of Jim Jones can make riveting and exciting theatre about our times and the character-cult aspect of contemporary politics in the UK and the U.S.