Friday, 4 March 2016

Taxithi – An Australian Odyssey, March 3, 2016 ***

By Helen Yotis Patterson
At fortyfivedownstairs, March 3 to 20, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also online at Herald Sun Arts today and in print later. KH
 Maria Mercedes
Floods of hopeful Greek women of all ages migrated to Australia in the 1950s and 60s and Taxithi – An Australian Odyssey weaves their personal stories among the spirited songs of their distant homeland.

Writer, Helen Yotis Patterson, collected tales told by her Yiayias (grandmothers) and other Greek immigrant women whose intimate stories were previously untold or unrecorded.

Joining the warm and ebullient Yotis Patterson on stage to illuminate the lives and music of these myriad women are the inimitable Maria Mercedes and newcomer, Artemis Ioannides, all three of whom celebrate their own Greek heritage.

The narratives include those of angry exiles, unwilling proxy brides, knowing mothers, abused wives, hopeful girls, educated or unschooled women and deprived immigrants seeking the promised ‘streets paved with gold’ in Australia.

The performers, directed by Petra Kalive who shares their Greek background, deliver stories, inhabit characters and perform songs with sincerity, commitment and skill.

Yotis Patterson has a rich, bold vocal tone and feisty but motherly persona, Mercedes brings dignity, elegance and a subtle, emotional vocal delivery while Ioannides performs with youthful energy and a light-footed physicality.

The open throated style of singing heightens the unbridled joy and despair of songs that are all sung in Greek and range from ballads to laments and rousing choruses.

The impassioned lyrics and tunes resonate with the women’s feelings of abandonment, angst and absence, distance and separation, but also include songs of hope, love and joy.

Two musicians, Andrew Patterson (piano) and Jacob Papadopoulos (bouzouki) who are secreted behind cool, creamy curtains, enhance the swelling vocals of the singers with the authentic sounds of Greek music.

The actors’ performances are heartfelt although this occasionally tilts into an uncomfortable earnestness and the production might benefit from a little more lightness and humour.

The individual stories are compelling but the structure of this episodic show lacks a clear dramatic arc, perhaps because the themes and characters become repetitive.

However, there is dramatic tension within specific vignettes and the songs have their own internal dramatic structure while the sense of history is strengthened by the projection of photographs from 1950s and 60s onto upstage screens.

This production harks back to the joyful, community theatre shows of the 1980s and 90s that celebrated the immigrant experience through verbatim storytelling and traditional music.

Taxithi is a timely reminder of the contribution of immigrants that changed the face of Melbourne when they joined our community and raised their families in this country.

By Kate Herbert
Helen Yotis Patterson

 Maria Mercedes
 Helen Yotis Patterson, Maria Mercedes, Artemis Ioannides

No comments:

Post a Comment