Translated from the original Greek, M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A. is a fascinating and unusual solo play. It’s the story of a woman who’s stuck in a rut: who’s unhappy, but only slightly. She isn’t depressed or despairing, she says, but there’s something not quite right in her life. Something that feels “a bit blah”.
There aren’t many plays about being “a bit blah” – after all, it’s hardly the stuff of drama. But it is a situation that everyone can identify with; so it’s easy to warm to this witty and engaging monologue, which catalogues the minor disappointments of the nameless protagonist’s world. As she prowls the confines of her tiny flat – marked out with masking tape on the floor of the stage – the woman speaks with disarming frankness about her unsatisfactory sex life, and a host of more domestic travails.
To be clear, she isn’t complaining; she’s remarkably chipper, in fact. As time goes on, though, the chat develops a surreal undertone, and the woman’s restless movements begin to hint at something less healthy than it seems. And then, still cheerful, she drops the sudden bombshell of what M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A. stands for… paving the way to a fanciful, dream-like second act.
According to the programme blurb, this is all an allegory for Greece’s financial woes. I must admit that isn’t an angle I picked up on at all. But I still enjoyed the piece for what, on the surface, it appears to be: a rueful deconstruction of modern urban life, and the fact that your future never unfolds in quite the way you had it planned. A stripped-down production, it also features the occasional reference to the nature of theatre itself, with the audience and even the technician all brought in on the joke.
Actor Aliki Chapple creates a believable, relatable character, goofy enough to be interesting but familiar enough to make you care. She holds the stage effortlessly for the 70-minute running time with a monologue which never seems to fade or flag. Chappele translated the script too, and she’s done that superbly: drawing freely on English vernacular, she’s retained enough Hellenic flavour to fix it in a specific place and time.
For a British audience, then, the deeper meanings M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A. might be destined to remain obscure. But it’s still a pleasure to engage with a piece from another culture; to enjoy its quirky, distinctive, European feel. And the humour and poignancy are unmistakeable. It seems that being “blah” is the same in any language.