Friday 30 June 2023

This Is Personal review

To many, the name Mary Coustas is an instant reminder of the Australian icon that is Effie Stephanidis, the character Coustas portrayed on the television comedy Acropolis Now that ran between 1989 and 1992. With her new solo show This Is Personal, Coustas lets free the woman under the big wig and make-up, and opens up about the fears she has on not being alive to be there for her daughter when she will need her most.

In 70 engrossing minutes, Coustas takes us through her Greek upbringing and relationship with her parents, and up to the present day of dealing with her IVF difficulties and eventually becoming a mother. She seamlessly moves between time periods with small revelations and surprises along the way that draws us deeper into the performance. Her commanding presence and controlled storytelling - including well timed callbacks such as her mother's obsession with American soapies, and endearing impersonations of family members - allow Coustas to display her knack for comedy and her dramatic flair.

Yet despite the focus on her life, this is not an autobiographical show as everything that Coustas shares links back to her worries, that as a woman of a certain age she will not be alive for her daughter when she is going through life's milestones, both good and bad. While this dread permeates throughout, what she gently implores all of us to do is to find the funny in any given situation because if you can't, then you are stuffed. We have to be able to embrace the fear and the grief that life delivers to us but we must also locate the laughs within it.

Simple but precise direction from Blazey Best permits Coustas the opportunity to shine on the large stage that is dressed with minimal props such as a telephone, a clock and a grey blazer. The sounds of a ticking clock and a ringing phone serve as cues of time gone by and time running out, and an effective lighting design further exposes Coustas' vulnerability.

This is Personal
has a very short run in Melbourne but it is a show that needs to be seen for the masterclass it is in storytelling and comedy. Her life is her life and her story is unique but Coustas taps into something incredibly special that connects with every single person in the audience where you are constantly switching from laughing to crying, and sometimes both at the same time. At a minimum, This Is Personal now definitively cements Mary Coustas to Australian icon status also.

Show Details

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Rd, Southbank

Season: until 2 July | Fri - Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm and 5pm
Duration: 70 minutes

Tickets: $69.90 - $79.90 Full | $64.90 - $74.90 Concession
Bookings: Arts Centre Melbourne

Image credit: Cassandra Hannagan

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