Naomi Velissariou (b. 1984, Bilzen) is a Greek-Belgian director, writer, actor and performance artist with an abiding fascination for the fluidity of contemporary identity and how it manifests itself in today's visual culture. She is the exponent of a generation of engaged performing artists, and is not afraid to stand on the barricades on behalf of them. Velissariou uses philosophical, scientific and personal concepts as the basis for productions with a rich visual idiom.
Naomi Velissariou earned a Master’s in Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Antwerp in 2009 and completed her acting studies at the Toneelacademie Maastricht Institute of Performative Arts in 2012. In that same year, she made Mr Jones (2012), a solo in which she used dramaturgical constructions to paint a picture of love. In 2014, she won the TAZ KBC young theatre maker’s award for her show A Tragedy (simplified) (2013), which was an analysis of her life according to the principles of classical tragedy. She then went on to make I see you (2014), a deconstruction of Sartre’s Huis Clos in the form of a reality TV show; Intervention (2015), a game show about identity; Q&A (2016), a contemporary myth about social fear; and Sontag (2017), a larger-than-life fantasy world populated by demons and icons from the work of one of the most controversial thinkers in the 20th century, Susan Sontag. In 2017, she received the Charlotte Köhler Prize, an incentive award for young talent from the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund.
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, she made the post-dystopian music theatre trilogy Permanent Destruction, a coproduction by Theater Utrecht and Stichting Naomi Velissariou. The first two parts of the trilogy are theatrical concerts, respectively inspired by the work of Sarah Kane (The SK Concert) and Heiner Müller (The HM Concert). The third part (Pain Against Fear) is an attempt to deal with fear by collectively raving to the rhythm of your individual pain. In 2019, Velissariou won the Director’s Award for The SK Concert; in 2020, she was nominated for the Gieskes Strijbis Performing Arts Award; and in 2021, she received the Theo d’Or, the most important theatre award in the Netherlands, for Pain Against Fear.
In her collaborations with sound producer Joost Maaskant and visual artists Frederik Heyman and Jan Hoek, Velissariou built a musical and visual signature around her alter ego of the ‘suffering pop icon’, which allowed her to express herself on themes such as self-hatred, misogyny and fear of failure, themes that in the Instagram era have become taboo. Her work focuses on the notion of ‘suffering’, more specifically, the suffering of women, ranging from female characters in classical times to women in today's visual culture.
In addition to her own work as a theatre maker, Naomi performs as an actor in theatre, films and television series. She made her film debut in Out of Love (2015) by Paloma Aguilera Valdebenito, played in Cobain by Nanouk Leopold (2018), and recently in Het Smelt by Veerle Baetens (premiere 2022).