Angelique Rockas

South African actress and founder of Internationalist Theatre, London

Angelique Rockas (born August 31 1951 in Boksburg) is a South African Greek actress and producer best known for pioneering multi-racial and multi-national theatre productions of European classics in London starting in April 1981 with her company Internationalist Theatre, for producing New Theatre`s `Tis Pity She`s a Whore`, and for her portrayal on stage of Medea, Miss Julie and Emma in 'The Camp' by Griselda Gambaro , Henrietta in Nicolas Roeg`s film The Wtches, and on TV for the leading role of Ms Ortiki in Thodoros Maragos`Greek ERT 1 Emmones Idees.

Angelique Rockas

QuotesEdit

Interview on Helenism .net (September 2011)Edit

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  • As an actress I decided that I was not going to accept being cast in token ethnic roles in film or on TV, nor act any parts that I considered demeaned the portrayal of a non-British character. To illustrate this point; after seeing me perform Tatiana in Gorky’s “Enemies” the well-known TV director, and very nice man, Chris Menaul offered me the role of the main Russian air hostess in a Malcolm Bradbury BBC TV series. He was taken aback when I turned the part down as I didn’t have any TV credits. I gave some excuse ‘that I thought the part vulgar” but the real reason was that Bradbury had portrayed the Russian air-hostesses in what I considered in a cliched demeaning way and involved a little Russia bashing. I have recently sent him a real explanation via his agent.
    • On the rejection of casting ethnic stereotypes
  • My first tentative efforts in creating my theatre company were mounting John Ford’s “Tis Pity She’s a Whore”. I asked people for money for my production, even as I found myself canvassing for another cause. This production was not the totally multi-racial cast that I had hoped for but did consist of actors from other cultures and differing accents, and also achieved a very high level of production value and rave reviews. It also provided the springboard for the extremely talented director/ designer couple Declan Donnellan and Nicolas Ormerod, who went onto creating the now world famous Cheek by Jowl company.
    • On first venture into producing 'Tis Pity She`s a Whore` and what ensued.
  • As a little girl my mother used to take me with her to her fittings with her very expensive seamstress. I was dazzled by the beauty of the fabrics and the whole procedure. I still remember the feel of expensive taffeta.
    • On the beauty of fabrics
  • I myself have experienced the volcanic existential depths of the Greek language. It was during a performance of Medea by Tzeni Karezi at the Herod Atticus theatre in Athens ,when she was pleading to the callous Jason to take pity on her and she used the word ' splachniasou'. 'Pity' is too weak a word to describe the emotional and psychological depths ' splachniasou' expresses. 'Splachna 'is the part of the body where a woman carries her unborn children, the very root of ontological existence. How deep can you get!
    • On the Greek language
  • Theatro Technis in North London, where the issues of prejudice against immigrants, the poor, the illiterate were dramatised , and more urgently the exploration of the war crime that constituted the illegal invasion by the Turkish military of CYPRUS, and for which the USA ( especially the diabolical Kissinger ) and the UK had little concern, as the president of Cyprus was the Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, who had the reputation of being a bit of a red.
    This was a theatre company that practiced political theatre in its purest form! I found myself performing a Greek Cypriot peasant woman driven from her land in the North of Cyprus and expressing her grief at the loss of her home in front of an audience that included refugees who had suffered the same fate but had managed to escape to London. The tears just flowed naturally. It was also at this theatre that I tackled the Mount Everest of acting parts – MEDEA by Euripides, and which I performed to great reviews and was the performance that put me on the London map as an actress. The whole play was interpreted politically.
    • On work at Theatro Technis and playing Medea
  • Many of the Greek journalists and TV presenters also seem to share this "progressive intellectualism" which leads Greeks to having to apologize for being Orthodox- What a load of rubbish! Prof Yiannaras with whom I have corresponded then continues with the frightening story about 'the predicted and inevitable and desirable Latinization of our Greek alphabet" quoted by an anonymous source in a periodical Samizdat . Let's get this straight both Greece as well as the Balkan countries that have Kyrilic alphabets should fiercely resist Latinization .
    • Objection to Latinization
  • Part of my Greek heritage: The call of resistance to the Nazis, when all mainland Europe had succumbed, it was only Greece my Antigone, who resisted and was starved for it.
  • My grandmother was a fearless Greek warrioress, and very protective of her land. She literally ordered some Nazi soldiers to get off one of her fields pointing a gun at them.
    • On the Greek heritage to resist
  • ..the gift of Orthodoxia : The call by the Christ not to be just good moral and ethical beings, which is where the western Churches stop- but to go beyond that , to be 'theanthropic", to reflect the generosity and magnificence and beauty of the Christ.
  • A key moment of my spiritual epiphany was the tale told by the property manager of our apartment block, Mrs Marina. Every year on All Saints Day if I remember correctly, she commemorated the death of her son who died from an overdose. She baked some holy bread, antidoro, and then took it to her parish Church as an offering for evening vespers. When I asked Mrs Marina why she was doing this, she replied simply, "So that Christ speaks to my son and takes pity", as it is on this particular day it is believed that the Christ descends once again into the bowels of hell, not to defeat death this time as in Holy Saturday, but to keep company with the so called damned. For mothers like Mrs Marina fearful that their dead children might inhabit this nether world because of their sins, despair of redemption etc, Christ's visit provides some hope- that He might take pity on them and relieve them of their eternal punishment. Christ as the God that Unshackles the power of Hell and Death , the Resurrected Christ that even reaches out to the damned , and not the Christ of Deo Satisfactio of the heretical western Churches is one of the great glories of Greek Orthodoxy and of Orthodoxy as a whole.
  • ... without New Testament Greek there would be no Christian Theology, or possibly no Christianity. The Athanasian Creed, the dogma of Christ the Homiousios, of the same essence as the Father , the dogma of Christ, fully God and Fully Human , The dogma of the Holy Trinity , 'that Christ is the incarnation of the indivisible source of the Divine Godhead through the power of the Holy Spirit " could only have been formulated by the Church Fathers within the linguistic structures and concepts provided by early century Greek language and thought., e.g concepts such as the God/man, a concept that which does not exist in the Hebrew and is totally foreign to Hebrew culture. Hence Shelley's assertion that the Greeks /the Hellenes "gave us our religion ".
    • On Orthodoxia
  • Apart from the greatness of Bizos for his role in the dismantling of apartheid, defending Mandela etc , he also manifested a genius in his role as a leading member of the conservative South African Greek community, by drawing historical parallels between the 400 years of slavery that Greece had suffered under the Ottoman Turks and the 300 years or so of repression and cruelty suffered by the Southern African black tribes and mixed race people under the British and then under the Nationalist Afrikaner rule. By using this strategy Bizos was able to balance his fight for justice in South Africa, and synchronously lead the very conservative Greek community in a more progressive direction.
    • On George Bizos
  • This is the place (Wits University) where the tension between my parents and myself on account of my political beliefs became pronounced. A photo of me standing at picket line on the WITS side of Jan Smuts avenue during one of the protests appeared in the "Star" newspaper. The local MP from the Nationalist Party Boksburg constituency saw it and made an ominous call to my parents "I didn't know that your daughter was communist!" and put the phone down on them. Of course I wasn't a "communist" but anyone who opposed the regime was automatically labeled as a communist. I ceased my political studies as I didn't wish to cause my parents any extra anxiety or stress .
    • On the force of the South African apartheid regime on anti-apartheid protest .
  • The reason the Internationalist Theatre productions demanded attention was that the directors who had already worked at top theatres like the Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company had agreed to take the risk of directing classical plays with multi-racial casts , that the performance was of a very good standard, and furthermore that many prominent members of the arts establishment, Lindsay Anderson, Cameron MacKintosh, John Barton, Richard Eyre, the great casting director Mary Selway, Stephen Berkoff, Nicolas Roeg, came to see performances by Internationalsit Theatre.
    • On Internationalist Theatre
  • Voulgaris asked me to find film funding for what was to be the last but unfinished film project of Elia Kazan,a personal friend of Voulgaris. The subject of the film was the immigration of the Kazan family from the beleaguered Greek minority communities under Turkish rule in Asia Minor to the safe haven of the USA where the Kazan family settled. I arranged a meeting between Elia Kazan and the London based film financier Frixos Constantini of Poseidon Films at the Grand Bretagne Hotel in Athens. What followed from this meeting is that Mr Constantini put Elia Kazan in touch with Martin Scorsese a personal friend of Mr Constantini and who also runs the production company Cappa films. And so it was that these two giants of US cinema met for the first time.
    It is also because of these meetings that Pandelis Voulgaris was able to make"The Brides". Elia Kazan was too old to get film insurance , so Kazan instead brought to Scorseses" the Voulgaris film project "The Brides" , and yet I have to this day never have had a thank you from him. So much for his saintly appearance.
  • ...this is not the only time that I have stuck out my neck for a Greek film director. With Nikos Nikolaides I introduced him to Mr Constantini as well , and undertook to send his XXX-rated movie "Singapore Sling" to two of the top film agents in the UK , Jenny Cassarotto and PDF who have now changed their name on account of a merger. Ms Cassarotto was indulgent, but the other agent was so shocked that he treated me as if I was peddling porn. The things I've done for Greece!
    • On helping Greek film directors find funding

The Cape Argus Interview : A Female Richard 111 . She`s not off her Rockers (March 1985)Edit

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  • They`re powerful parts- all the most powerful parts seem to be written for men....Hamlet has this existentialist crisis .I had one when I was 17. Women are not given that kind of philosophy in their parts"
    • On wanting to portray Richard 111 and Hamlet

The South African Interview (August 8, 2011)Edit

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  • I arrived at as an undergraduate with two driving passions: a consuming interest for a politics of justice grounded in a Christian theology and acting, as a ‘revelation of the treasures of the human soul’ not as a form of exhibitionism. My search for justice grew out of the pain I experienced when I saw the ridicule my malformed brother elicited. I became aware of the evil that is prejudice, a form of injustice. My urge to redress this prejudice took a more social dimension during my years as a boarder at St Dominic’s Convent, where the great Barbara Hogan matriculated a year later than me though I only got acquainted with her at Wits.
  • At the end of my course I realized there was no place for me in South Africa because I found it difficult to function in a society that considered 75% of population inferior, that my community frowned on me as an actress, and my beliefs for a non-racial society now incorporated a fight for the equality for women an anathema to my conservative Greek community. I did not want to spend my life apologizing for who I was.
    • On leaving South Africa
  • Our first play in 1981 was Jean Genet’s The Balcony, a prophetic choice, set in Paris in turmoil, just as London was being torched during the Brixton riots, an explosion of racial tensions that had been simmering for some time. I insisted on casting a Caribbean actress to play the lead, Irma the Madam of the Brothel.
  • The ground breaking production of the company, and the point at which the cross-cultural casting began to bite, was Brecht’s anti-war play Mother Courage. Just one comment in a review by critic Malcolm Hay jolted us into the realisation that we were making history: Why is an Indian actor playing the Pastor?
  • The breaking of casting cliches also broke boundaries. A short, Latin-looking actress like me playing classical roles such as Miss Julie, and playing them well, made casting directors uncomfortable. It was unheard of that a short, dark-haired actress of Greek temperament could play the aristocratic Miss Julie. Not beautiful or tall enough etc. It proved one of the best productions of Miss Julie ever seen in London.
    • On the formation of Internationalist Theatre.

Vogue, Mexico Interview: Una Actirz Multiplicada (July 1992)Edit

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  • Morally, good theatre and film for that matter disturbs and unnerves us, tries to rid us of our cliched reactions to the world around us by expanding our sympathies, stretching our imaginations, and enriches us
  • The great British 1950`s theatre critic Ken Tynnan, described the theatre as “an independent force at the country`s life , a sleeping tiger that can and should be roused whenever the national (or international) conscience needs nudging”. And Gambaro`s EL CAMPO does just that. It is a savage protest against the indignities imposed on modern man and woman by the impersonal bureaucracies and dictatorships in a language of poetic and startling originality. In the figure of Emma, the tortured artist, the part I played, we find expressed an outcry against the imprisonment of artists and the suppression of artistic freedom.
    • On the function of theatre
  • What is the role of the contemporary woman artist/actress, novelist, scriptwriter etc. etc.?
    Women in the past have been the creators of the race, in the sense of procreation, a very noble and holy purpose I itself, but men have been the creators of culture, in the sense that we understand actress is over. Once you know what your objectives and values are, there can be no compromise. As founder and artistic director of Internationalist Theatre I was fulfilling both these functions. But, let me add, God help you if you are strong minded and an intellectual in England, where they are generally anti-intellectual and petrified of passionately held beliefs. They have given me such a rough ride you wouldn`t believe it. Tant Pis!!!!I`m not ashamed of spending six years at university, and I revel in intellectual discourse. I`m unashamedly high brow. And, as for fighting in a man`s domain, I`m known as the Greek warrioress, ha, ha ha...I come from a family of noble Greek women. My grandmother faced the Nazis during occupied Greece with a gun in her hand, and my mother is a veritable Hecuba, all strength and dignity.
    • On what is the role of the contemporary woman artist/actress, novelist, scriptwriter
    • English translation of the Spanish language text

TA NEA (London) Interview (June 1983)Edit

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  • I called my company "The Internationalist" because there are a lot of actors who are not English and are being prejudiced against, because they come from other countries. I don`t believe in accents or skin colour. My company has a very strong ethic of social justice to it . I try to incorporate actors from as many nationalities as possible."
    • On why "I called my company "Internationalist""
  • The first performance the company staged was Ford`s '`Tis Pity Shes a Whore'. It was well received. I like to choose the play, the directors, the designers.. it`s a total creative act.
    • On the production of Ford`s Tis Pity She`s A Whore`
  • The thing I like about having a company is the academic side. Then you forget about the academic side once you`ve done the administration and you start creating.
    • On the academic side of producing

External linksEdit

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  • Angelique Rockas Vogue Mexico & Latin America Interview: Una Actirz Multiplicada Spanish text 5 pages including editorial.
  • [1] "The Complete Unpublished Extract Of Angelique Rockas` South African Journey Used As Basis For Interview With The South African"
  • [2] The South African interview print edition
  • Angelique Rockas Hellenism.Net Interview on Academia.edu