Review: Koraly’s I say the wrong things all the time

Cyprus, that island in the eastern Mediterranean about which most of us know nothing. No time or space for a history lesson now. It’s complicated and stretches back several millennia with multiple invasions, occupations and division, the latest being between the Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots after the British cleared out in the mid-C20th.

Yet many of us do know something of Aphrodite and Adonis and Pygmalion from ancient Greek mythology, and they are all purported to have been born on Cyprus.

Koraly Dimitriadis is a Melbourne-based performer and writer from the Greek-Cypriot immigrant community who has written and devised a challenging and often confronting show based on the experiences and predicaments of her own life so far.

She is an artist and a woman who has been driven to break out of the ‘good Greek girl’ stereotype of being a homebound wife and mother. It is this painful, singular and turbulent journey to express her real life passions, and to establish her creative credentials, that forms the basis of this self-revelatory production.

Koraly Dimitriadis offers up her all, her heart, mind, body, soul, faith and family history during an 80-minute procession of scenes that expose the raw reality of opting to make a new life for oneself. This is a moving and particularly personal performance which exerts a demand for empathetic attention to be shared between the performer and the audience.

This show succeeds because it doesn’t set out to answer the wider question that it poses to which we can all relate, put simply ‘What is my life all about?” How often does any of us get to really ask such a question of ourselves?

Koraly Dimitriadis deftly switches scenes that portray the overlapping and often clashing roles in her life as a daughter, grand-daughter, mother, divorcee, lover, writer and, above all, as a woman determined to rise above the confines of her background. In each of these scenes there is an ongoing conflict between her hope, anger, fear, desire and her subversive sense of humour.

Her composed and yet cathartic performance is augmented but not overshadowed by appropriate traditional music, sound effects and film footage of wedding scenes, dancing, and migration to Australia by boat.

Koraly achieves a fusion of spoken word and theatre by also drawing upon her published writing, especially her recent collection Love and Fuck Poems. She is staking an entirely valid claim as a performing and writing woman intent upon challenging a man’s world by refusing to submit to it or to remain silent.

So she explores the paradox of being either unable to be with or to be without a man in her life. She writes caustically about a lover who ‘only wants to fuck the darkness out of her’ during a time of distress and grief. This is a searing scene of hard won worldly wisdom in which sexual desire and loneliness conspire against any prospect of genuine intimacy. It makes for a mocking rebuke of the carefree and casual ‘zipless fuck’ championed by Erica Jong in the 1970’s.

Her writing in such a direct and graphic way amplifies the emotional intensity and the candid delivery of her vocal performance.

In saying the wrong things all the time, the protagonist is rightfully asserting ownership of her own life and the art she is making from it. Otherwise she would languish as solitary as a statue waiting for one touch to become alive.

“I can’t believe / that love has lost its glamour / that passion is really passe. / If gender is just a term in grammar / how can I ever find my way / since I’m a stranger here myself?” – Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash, from the musical One Touch of Venus (1943), a romantic farce about a statue coming to life.

Well, Koraly Dimitriadis has bestowed upon us one sure touch of Cyprus, even though we don’t speak the language or know about its people. She takes us right around her world here and over there during this engaging and insightful show.

You might even be offered a sweet treat if you’re sitting in the first row, and you might have a tray of those treats flung at your feet too.

You will leave La Mama feeling like you’ve been listening to the right things all the time.

[Photo by Di Cousens]

Hamish Danks Brown