Karagiozis in Greece

The Karagiozis’ shadow theatre was known in Greece before the Greek Revolution of 1821 but officially, Brachalis was the player who presented it (1840 – 1850). As a spectacle was full of foul language and Turkish elements. The performances of Brachalis were full of foul words too and dirty gestures. That’s why Brachalis used to set up his stage in neighbourhood cafes and his audience was only men who in the interval were throwing him some money.

Even though Karagiozis started to become Greek and not Turkish shadow theatre from Ioannina (Epirus) its main innovator was Mimaros (1890). Once, when Brachalis gave a show in Patras, it was seen by the first psalmodist at St. Andrew’s Church, DimitrisSardounis or “Mimaros”.

Mimaros sat down and did a lot of thinking about the work of Brachalis. He worked hard at it and, within the year, he began his own performances in Patras that they were a great success. The figures, songs and the thirty different stories which have remained an immortal part of Greek art were all the original work of Mimaros.

Everybody was calling him by his nickname, Mimaros, because as a shadow player he was excellent mime. But also, in the history of Greek shadow theatre he is known as its first teacher or, “The First Master of Greek Karagiozis” because of the innovations he made.

The most important thing that Mimaros did, was that he created a new shadow theatre changing it in a spectacle for all the family by taking away the coarse language. When Mimaros died, his three assistants, Giannis Roulias, Memos Christodoulou and Thodoros Thodorellos continued his work.

In 1924 the Pan-Hellenic Association of Shadow Players was established and formed by 120 members, students of Mimaros, Roulias and Memos.

The most important founders of the Association were Sotiris Spatharis and Antonis Papoulias known as Mollas.

Other famous shadow players and members of the Association were: Andreas Agiomavritis, Giannis Moros, Markos Xanthakis known as Xanthos, Kostas Ntamadakis, Christos Charidimos, Panagiotis Michopoulos, Giannis Papoulias, Spiros Kouzaros, Vassilis Agapitos, Ntinos Theodoropoulos, Vassilaros, Giannis Prevezanos, Lefteris Kelarinopoulos, Mitsos Manolopoulos e.t.c. who enriched the Greek Karagiozis with many new plays and figures.

From 1900 until 1940 the art of Shadow Theatre really was in its prime. During the German occupation in Greece, Karagiozis’ spectacle passed a period of “crisis” but the shadow players succeeded to keep this theatre alive. When the coloured cinematograph arrived in Greece, the art of Karagiozis was about to be vanished but because of Eugenios Spatharis’, (who has been considered the most famous and best Greek shadow player in the world), hard and painful tries, the popular hero survived and came back as a winner.

Nowadays Karagiozis’ tradition is going on and the young shadow players are giving performances successfully. The audience, kids, young and old people, enjoy watching this kind of theatre, and this is a good reason for all of us to keep it deeply in our hearts and always alive. The Greek shadow theatre is a precious inheritance of our civilization and its protagonist, our hero, Karagiozis is the “mirror of the Greek heart”.