Vylcha, Eleusis, Greece
Dates & Times
Performance: 19:00 – 21:30
Meeting place: Eleftherias (Freedom) Square, 192 00, Eleusis
Vlycha Public Space
8 – 12 May 2023 – Community engagement workshop (not public – contact CHORUS to get involved!)
5 – 9 June 2023 – Community engagement workshop (not public – contact CHORUS to get involved!)
Try-out: 25 September
Opening: 26 September
Performances: 26, 27, 29 & 30 September, 2023
English & Greek
metamorphoSEA (= Metamorphosis + Sea) was a multidimensional cultural intervention inspired by the Eleusinian coast and the almost dystopian ship graveyard in the area of Vlycha.
The Oxen of the Sun episode focuses on the sacredness of birth, on purity. Eleusis was the city of goddess Demeter and home to the Eleusinian Mysteries; initiates attended the mysteries to overcome fear of death and personally experience a realm beyond the tangible reality of mortal life.
Eleusis differs radically from the stereotypical image of Greece as a country with beautiful beaches, where people are carefree and relaxed and spend their lives enjoying the sun and sea. Eleusis is a reflection of an entirely overlooked – but very real – aspect of Greece: productive Greece. Some 30% of the country’s GDP is produced in Eleusis and the wider Thriasian Plain area, a percentage that is roughly equal to the national contribution of tourism to GDP. Eleusis is located 20 km to the west of Athens, and holds the title of the 2023 European Capital of Culture.
The city’s industrialisation and deindustrialisation in 1970-1990, increased refugee flows and incoming migrants from various ethnic groups arrived due to the city’s industrial activity. The city built a multicultural character, which also came with increased financial and environmental problems. Today Eleusis invests in culture and sustainability, its local community and culture is diverse, aiming to address the aforementioned challenges and redefine a healthy and inclusive society and living environment.
Within UEO, CHORUS and Brave New World Producties (NL) co-presented the artistic project “metamorphoSEA”, an initiative that engaged local communities through participatory processes and highlighted environmental and ecological challenges. The project was presented in collaboration with 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture. metamorphoSEA focused on mobilising local communities to address environmental issues through cultural practices.
The project provided a collaborative and artistic form of joint participatory action in which local communities, artists, environmentalists, and key local experts collaborated to imagine a better future. It included a site-specific artistic intervention by Dutch theatre director Sjoerd Wagenaar inspired by the city’s coast and the borderline-dystopian “ship graveyard” in Vlycha area. This performative intervention began with a community outreach programme that investigated the residents’ feelings for the sea, as well as their desire to be reunited with their coastline. Both Greek and Dutch artists collaborated in the performance, launching an international exchange of skills, practices, and experiences.
The metamorphoSEA project included a mini symposium designed to connect, discuss, debate, question, and exchange ideas and thoughts on a set of queries and concerns about local and regional environmental challenges and our future relationship with nature in general.
The ‘graveyard’ sits between a refinery and a cement factory. Together they have stolen this stretch of the coastline from the city. There is a right of way through the cement factory and a few brave activists cycle it every day to ensure the right of way remains open. It is their way of claiming the coastline, linking the city to its western reaches.
But the road leads nowhere but to the graveyard. It leads to pollution. It leads to the shocking reality of ships, dumped and seeping crude oil into the sea. A sea just 21km from Athens.
A positive intervention inspired us
Very often the activist voice is one of clamour and complaint. Of fury and frustration. And too often it leads to nothing more than demonstrations which do nothing to further the cause. Indeed often activist demonstrations isolate communities, alienate local government, and move little or nothing forward. But imagine a positive voice. A fresh and creative voice. A voice which works to seek solutions, a new vision. A voice which inspires?
Imagine hundreds of people, from all over Eleusis and its surrounding coastline, from all over Greece, walking to Eleusis with a handful of sand. A hat filled with sea shells. And a heart filled with hope.
Imagine all these people coming together on an appointed day in 2023, and dropping their sand, their sea shells on the pier and on the polluted beach by the graveyard.
Imagine planting trees in the pier. Trees along the stretch of ‘beach’ by the dumped ships.
Imagine a forest growing next to the polluted seas.
Imagine a beach, created from all the beautiful beaches of Greece. Here in Eleusis.
Imagine the hope this positive action could offer the citizens of Eleusis. Trees are a sign of hope, Of rejuvenation. Think of Chernobyl, where nature has reclaimed the polluted land of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Look around the world. People use trees and greenery to reinvigorate, re-oxygenate polluted or desolate environments.
Imagine a forest and a beach by the graveyard of dumped ships in Eleusis.
Our intervention was sadly short-lived but it offered a symbol of hope in a desperate landscape.
Director: Sjoerd Wagenaar (NL)
Assistant Director: Seta Astreou Karides (GR)
Writer / Dramaturg: Manolis Tsipos (GR)
Lighting Designer: Valentina Tamiolaki (GR)
Sound Designer: Dennis van Tilburg (NL)
Set & Costume Designer: Dido Gkogkou (GR)
Video Projection Designer: Jurjen Jellema (NL)
Performers (NL): Jolanda Bazzi & Laila el Bazi
Performers (GR): Spyros Detsikas, Ioanna Karategou, Iro Karra, Isabella Kassimati & Theodore Vrachas
Photo credit: John Kouskoutis
“It has been 50 years since I last time felt sand on my hands in the city.”
“I really enjoyed the performance. It had a deep meaning and afterwards I was thinking of the stories my grandpa had told me about Vlycha and the huge beach where he used to swim back then. It’s really sad what they have done to Eleusis. It could have been one of the most beautiful areas if they hadn’t decided to pollute the whole sea.”
“It’s really important to be hopeful, that one day, perhaps, Eleusis will have a beautiful beach again…”
“I was deeply moved that, finally, there is an artistic project that talks about Vlycha and does not use the space simply as a stage”
Site Visit Photos
Sjoerd Wagenaar – shocked at the graveyard of dumped ships, site of the performance in September 2023.
Chorus historian, Leonidas Argyros, shows Sjoerd around the site of Demeter’s Temple, site of the Eleusinian mysteries.
Sjoerd Wagenaar (director) and Claudia Woolgar (Brave New World Producties, co-producer), Virginia Vassilakou and Yannis Pappas from CHORUS (local producers of the project) at a breakfast meeting in Eleusis.