Reflections on the Dinard Film Festival, Part 2 (Tango for One)

I spent many hours wandering about with the cast, eating ice cream and taking in the views at Dinard. It’s rare to bond with any group of people you work with, but that is what we did when we shot Papadopoulos & Sons in the Summer of 2011. One of the reasons I was drawn to being an actor, and the main reason I went to drama school, was the romantic idea of belonging to a company of actors – touring the country or even the world – exchanging ideas, performing and laughing lots.

It never happened for me as an actor but I got a taste of it on the Friday night screening of Papadopoulos & Sons, at the Palais – the main cinema in Dinard – in front of 400 audience members.

The artistic director had asked me to get up with the cast and do some Greek dancing. This is what he’d dreamed of since seeing the film in Cannes, back in May.

Whilst I felt a little uncomfortable asking them to do this, I felt obliged to make it happen. So I told the actors to turn up at the end and I mentioned that we were getting up on stage to dance. I was very clear. “Come to the end and we will get up and do some Greek dancing,” I said. “But only if you want to,” I added.

To my astonishment, some of the actors at the time thought it was, in Ed Stoppard’s words, “another Marcus bullshit”. I have spent my life being accused of this and its strangely worked in my favour. I rarely “bullshit” and often it’s my naivity that is mistaken for hype.

As we got into the last couple of the scenes of the film, I noticed the actors assemble – Jimmy Roussounis – a London-Greek who plays Fat Laki; Vangelis Christodoulou – a London-Greek who plays Phil the Till; Georges Corraface – a French-Greek (often referred to as ‘Freak’) who plays Uncle Spiros; the wonderful, grounded, wise and funny Georgia Groome (you wouldn’t believe she’s only 20) who played Katie Papadopoulos (and also looks very Greek) and finally, the very British Ed Stoppard – star of the very British remake of Upstairs Downstairs.

Stephen Dillane was sadly missing – as he had to judge another film that was playing at the same time. I am determined to dance with Stephen in public at some point. I led the cast out onto the stage and started clapping to the lively Greek music that accompanies the credits. The audience responded and clapped in reply. The energy was good. I have no idea what the actors must’ve been thinking at this point but all doubts about what we were there to do must’ve vanished quickly. Ed must’ve realised that the ‘Marcus bullshit’ was becoming ‘fact’.

Without thinking too much, I leapt out into the front and started to do what I call my ‘regular Greek number’ – the audience sill clapping. It’s something that I learned for my Greek wedding 10 years ago, from Costas, one of my Dad’s fish and chip shop clients. It involves a three step move that you can improvise and it finishes with a dramatic flourish, a leap in the air, a spin and a slapping of one’s heal with the open palm of the hand before landing. It looks as impressive as it sounds. Sure, it’s the only move I know. In Greek dancing terms, I am a one trick pony. But it’s a great trick.

As I leapt in the air, smacked my heal, span and landed, I heard a big roar from the audience and a sudden rise in the clapping volume. I stepped back into the line. This show was only just beginning. Dinard wanted more. Next came Jimmy Roussounis. He rolled out an elegant series of gentle turns culminating in a slow stroking of the ground with an open palm. Graceful, truthful, humbling. More claps and cheers. Then came Georges Corraface, who, holding out his arms and clicking his fingers did what’s commonly known as a ‘Zorba’ – a simple but effective routine that cannot fail and is the staple across Greek tavernas the world over. Then Vangelis jumped in and executed a series of athletic but effortless kicks and spins, harking back to the very Spartans who used to practice these rhythms in preparation for war.  By now, the audience were immersed in a Dionysian trance. Then came Ed Stoppard.

What followed caught us by surprise and sent us into a delayed shock of sorts. It took about an hour or so after the event to acknowledge what Ed had actually done. But as we came round from the amnesia – often used by the body to protect from pain – we started to face the past with a new boldness.  Yes, what Ed did was weird. Yes, it wasn’t very Greek at all but doing a solo tango up and down the entire length of the stage (I repeat a tango for one – arms stretched out – imagining a partner – imagining another style of music) was one of the funniest, most beautiful, inspired things I have ever seen. I saw it in slow motion. And the music stopped being Greek – I heard the Mills Brothers singing Autumn Leaves (Listen to this to get an idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubGGcTJhAvQ). I was suddenly in a David Lynch movie and David Lynch was standing at the back of the cinema laughing. Ed, in a trance, tangoing to his own tune. An audience of 400 stuck for a response.

The sheer uniqueness of it led Stephen Dillane to ask sometime later, “Why did you do that?” He asked that question with a genuine inquisitiveness of an anthropologist or psychologist – without judgement. Ed cannot tell you why or what but he leapt and bounded across the front of the stage with the joy of a seven year old boy. Ed’s dance was the greatest of them all. A tango for one. To Greek music. In front of a stunned audience. At a French film festival. That’s how to live. But I cannot tell why it’s the way to live. It just is.

Some of my fondest memories of Dinard will be standing outside the small party they threw for P+Sons, with the actors, late at night, pressing Ed, often in stitches of laughter, to recount the stages leading up to the ‘tango for one’ and seeing Ed hold court, starting off with the line… “I just assumed it was another Marcus bullshit…” delivered in a way that only Ed does.

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