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Agapi and Other Kinds of Love

Agapi and Other Kinds of Love
Writer: Luka Lesson
Co-Directors: Luka Lesson, Sam Foster
Riverside Theatres
February 29 – March 1, 2024

Agapi and Other Kinds of Love is an innovative and intriguing show merging hip-hop beats with music for ancient instruments and swinging in time between Athens in 416 BCE and the modern-day city. The text, exploring different kinds of love and inspired by Plato’s The Symposium is performed by poet and rapper Luka Lesson who brings to the spoken word an enormous outpouring of energy, emotional generosity and passionate commitment and for whom the universe had its origins in creative love.

Chaos and Cosmos, the primal lovers, can sit back and watch all universal events switching time channels at will. Sometime in 416 BCE, Socrates, who is amongst a party of friends who have met to philosophise (something like Insight), imparts the wisdom teaching given to him by the mysterious Diotima, his one-time lover and old friend. She describes for him the seven rungs on the ladder of love: Eros (romantic love), Storgi (sustaining love), Filoxenia (love for others), Philautia (self-love), Filia (friendship), Pragma (enduring love) and finally, Agapi is celebrated in a magnificent finale. Lesson’s performance as it unfolds pictures vividly, frighteningly and beautifully the full complexity of each kind of love, sympathically supported by an intelligent musical score (James Humberstone).

We begin at Eros and by the will of the all-powerful Chaos and Cosmos, and economical back projection, we are transmigrated to modern Athens as the souls of philosopher and high priestess incarnate as a young Greek girl, Sophia, and Pavlos, an Australian-Greek youth. They meet and fall in love against a background of escalating resistance against police and state condoned violence directed at ethnic minorities. “How beautiful”, says the poet, “to fall in love/ as the world/ falls apart”, romanticism later countered by the wise Sophia’s observation that “we have to fight/ but with love/ because a loveless revolution/ makes a future/ not worth fighting for”.

Part of the enjoyment of Lesson’s performance is bold rhyming and lively rhythm. In a switch back to 416 BCE, Socrates laments the conflict between Sparta and Athens, because “we are them/ and they are us/ and we all look the same/ when we turn to dust.” In describing the fall of Athens from the glory of its past, Lessons chants: “Athens is now melancholic/ crestfallen and chaotic/ full of lost souls/ alcoholics/ the painfully patriotic” and he pictures for us the young Molotov cocktail thrower, Aristocles, as “a squat dweller/ a Low-Bap rap fan turned weed seller, who volunteers/ at the local homeless shelter … his parents were polytechnic student activists/ so now he is an anarchist/ turned masked antagonist”.

The presentation is strikingly simple. The two musicians, Mae Lin and Greta Kelly, stand to either side of the stage, their gracefully draped costumes evoking female figures from Greek pottery. A few pallets with assorted litter suggest both the poor area of Exarcheia, “a safe place for refugees/ the homeless/ and migrants” and the “heart of the protest movement” as well as the destruction of rioting. At one point, the image of the ancient ruin, the Parthenon, is projected onto the back wall creating a poignant contrast between the richness of the past and the decay of the present.

Unfortunately, Agapi has a very short run, so buying Lesson’s book of the same name would be a great idea. You could appreciate at your leisure not only Luka’s deeply felt lesson but his love for, and adroit use of, words and rhythm.

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