INTERVIEW: actor & director Yorgos Karamalegos on his passion for movement & physical theatre

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Yorgos Karamalegos’ passion for performance has taken him all over the world. There are many places he can call home, and Liverpool has a huge part to play in his story so far.

A graduate of Hope Street Ltd and co-founder of Tmesis Theatre and its annual PhysicalFest, more recently he has starred in an award-winning film and made a new start in LA. And the future is looking bright…

Athens-born Karamalegos moved to Liverpool from London in 2002. “It was my passion for movement and physical theatre that got me thinking about moving to the UK in the first place,” he says.

The acclaimed Hope Street Ltd – which helped the fledgling careers of luminaries such as Olivier-winning Josette Bushell-Mingo and countless others, and has sadly recently announced its intentions to close after 30 years after losing its Arts Council funding – enabled Karamalegos to learn from the likes of Told by an Idiot, mask theatre experts Trestle, and mime artist Rowan Toley. And there, he met fellow student Elinor Randle, their working relationship going on to form Tmesis and establish the city’s international PhysicalFest.

Together they spent a decade creating work and travelling the world with their shows, “a great collaboration,” as he describes it. “There was an undoubtable chemistry between us on stage. We understood each other well, and complemented each other’s ideas and vision.”

For this writer, coming into contact with Tmesis in those earlier days was not only a gateway to and education in a new style and language of performance, but a gift of discovering one of the most exciting and intriguing companies working in the city – or indeed anywhere. Their spellbinding and intoxicating piece Tmesis was simply astounding. The Dreadful Hours, performed in the Everyman in 2009, was impeccably artistic, yet relatable and funny. They remain, for my money, some of the most memorable pieces of theatre to come out of the city in the last ten years.

Karamalegos doesn’t like to pick a favourite work from that period but will cite Anima, an abstract piece based on dreams and subconscious life – commissioned for Liverpool’s 2008 Capital of Culture year – and the aforementioned The Dreadful Hours, a poignant comedy on the breakdown of a relationship, as among his most notable achievements with Tmesis. They worked with illustrious companies such as Peepolykus, Complicite and Pina Bausch Tanztheater to develop their work, and PhysicalFest – a festival of performances and workshops involving acclaimed physical theatre practitioners from around the world – was the only event of its kind in Europe.

But in 2009, Karamalegos took the bold and unexpected decision to leave Tmesis – and Liverpool. “Things were going so well,” he admits, “but I was questioning everything. I believed that I was done with the arts.” He headed back to London, where he reconnected with the work of iconic performer Pina Bausch, and, in time, his passion for his work came flooding back.

“I felt my heart beating again for my love for performance,” he says. “It was a massive relief – however something had changed, and I started exploring acting and theatre from a different perspective.”

It was a risk that paid off; he went on to set up the successful international acting school Physical Lab, taught and directed at the likes of LAMDA and RADA, and worked with the likes of such acclaimed choreographers as the late Nigel Charnock – a major influence – and Jerwood Award winner Fin Walker.

But his collaborators and supporters in Liverpool still had a big part to play in his work during this period.

Among these was directing Tmesis’s first solo piece, 2012’s Wolf Red (reviewed here), which began life at the Unity and went on to win the best choreography award at the United Solo Festival in New York. Tmesis continues today under Elinor Randle’s artistic directorship.

Later, a labour of love which he devised and performed, Home was supported by Hope Street Ltd and staged at the Unity in 2015 (reviewed here).

After 16 years in the UK, Karamalegos moved back to Greece, a place he has always considered a rejuvenating, sheltering space. And in Crete, as he looked to the future, he decided to focus on something new – film. Opportunity soon knocked, and he was offered a role in what was to become one of the most successful movies in his homeland last year.

Acclaimed wartime drama The Last Note, from acclaimed director Pantelis Voulgaris, is based on the true story of the execution of 200 members of the Greek resistance by Nazis in 1944. It won four Greek Film Academy Awards and made almost as much at the box office there as blockbusters like The Last Jedi.

It has yet to receive a Europe-wide release but is expected to make it onto the film festival circuit this year. “I couldn’t be happier having such a cracking comeback,” Karamalegos, 41, says of returning to life in front of the camera. And now, with such a positive experience under his belt, he has moved out to LA.

He says: “I was invited to teach acting in the States last autumn, so I extended my journey and spent two months in LA to get a feel of the city, see friends, and to check out the acting industry, and I got really inspired. It is a great place to be, and a lot of my favourite work is being produced there.”

As his work continues to take him around the globe at pace, Karamalegos is poised to return to London this autumn for a new production of Lorca’s Blood Wedding at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham. “I just wish to work with the people who inspire me the most, and working with people from different cultural backgrounds is very enriching and refreshing,” he says. “It opens your mind.”

The post SPOTLIGHT ON: Yorgos Karamalegos appeared first on MADE UP.

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Vicky Anderson
A former newspaper arts editor at Liverpool Daily Post, Vicky Anderson has been blogging about theatre in Liverpool since 2010. Her site, MADE UP: Onstage in Liverpool, "attempts to cram in as wide a variety of news, reviews and interviews on theatre happenings in Liverpool as possible".
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Vicky Anderson on RssVicky Anderson on Twitter
Vicky Anderson
A former newspaper arts editor at Liverpool Daily Post, Vicky Anderson has been blogging about theatre in Liverpool since 2010. Her site, MADE UP: Onstage in Liverpool, "attempts to cram in as wide a variety of news, reviews and interviews on theatre happenings in Liverpool as possible".

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