By Karolina Tagaris
ATHENS (Reuters) Greek actor forced the cancellation of Eugene Ionesco’s Athens play after refusing to perform only for vaccinated audiences, drawing equal criticism and praise amid wave COVID-19 infections in the country.
Coronavirus cases in Greece reached record levels this month, prompting the government to impose more restrictions on the public life of unvaccinated people this week, banning them from indoor places including restaurants, theaters, cinemas and gymnasiums.
Greece has so far fully vaccinated around 62% of its population of around 11 million, below the EU average of 67%. Authorities hope the rules will encourage people to get vaccinated.
Aris Servetalis, a popular actor who starred in Ionescos’ 1959 absurd play, Rhinoceros, announced he was stepping down Tuesday night in an Instagram post. The Kivotos Theater said the production had been postponed indefinitely.
I cannot support the segregation of people imposed by the new measures, wrote Servetalis, who expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. We are a society of individuals, not a herd divided between vaccinated and unvaccinated.
His decision sparked a storm of criticism in the entertainment world, which has been hit hard by several lockdowns since the start of the pandemic after already suffering for years of economic crisis.
I’m shocked, said Spyros Bibilas, who heads the Association of Greek Actors. I didn’t expect an actor to stop a show, unaware that other people are working on it as well. I find this unacceptable.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis tweeted his dismay, saying: Are these reasons to leave his colleagues unemployed, because he cannot make it in the country?
But thousands of Greeks have taken to social media to congratulate Servetalis, dubbed by some media outlets as the hero of anti-vaccines. Protests against vaccinations drew thousands of people this summer.
It was time for someone to say NO, one Instagram user wrote under the actors post. bow to your ethics and integrity, said another.
In Rhinoceros, Servetalis played the central character of Bérenger, the only inhabitant of a provincial French town who does not turn into an animal. The pioneer of the Theater of the Absurd Ionesco had called it an anti-Nazi play.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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