By Theodora Galanis
The highly-acclaimed production, Taxithi – An Australian Odyssey, premieres in Adelaide at the Cabaret Festival this month. Directed by Petra Kalive, Taxithi fuses story and song in a dramatic tribute to the women of Greek-Australian diaspora. The production stars Melbourne-based performers, Helen Yotis Patterson, Maria Mercedes and Artemis Ioannides.
In a series of vignettes, the three actors share the tales of young brides, mothers and daughters who sailed to Australia during the mid-twentieth century. With its multitude of characters, Taxithi creates a heart-felt mosaic of the migration story, capturing the complexity and ambiguity of this transgenerational experience.
The monologues seamlessly blend into traditional “rebetika” songs: a genre of Greek folk music revived in the 1960s and 1970s. Musical director, Michael Patterson, selects a brilliant soundtrack of classic “laiko” songs which showcase the performers’ unique voices.
The emotion of each scene is amplified through the music, as the songs seem to communicate the women’s anguished mix of hope and fear, better than words alone. While Helen Yotis Patterson shines as the most outstanding singer on stage, Artemis Ioannides’s mesmerising dancing in “To Kokkino Foustani” is a highlight. Jacob Papadopoulos is brilliant on the bouzouki, where he breezes through improvised “taxims”, fast-paced runs, and traditional dance rhythms.
Born to Greek migrant parents, Helen Yotis Patterson wrote Taxithi as a way to chronicle the stories of the women in her life. For Patterson, migrant women are a generation of voices almost lost in the noise of Australia’s complicated history. In the show’s development, Patterson interviewed over twenty migrant women to craft a script that was both accurate and theatrically engaging.
The pathos of Taxithi is cut with well-timed humour, sourced from the dialogue which slips in and out of the Greek language. Many of us were laughing to the familiar sayings and expressions that we’ve all heard growing up. Though language can be viewed as barrier to non-Greek speaking viewers, this lack of complete access is, in another sense, analogous to the experience of non-English speaking migrants. Functioning as a tool of inclusion and exclusion, the language in Patterson’s script offers everyone highly charged points of emotional connection.
The costume and set are simple: sheer cream drapes hang upstage, while the actors are costumed in black wrap dresses, each with a scarf tied around the waist. Visually, Taxithi feels like a hazy memory, where the women could be any one of your ancestors, fading and then remerging from the blurry curtain of your consciousness.
Like the women to whom this is a tribute, Taxithi is bold and unapologetic. The production does not wait to dive into the most painful and gripping corners of our history. As a grandchild of Greek migrants, I was struck by the power of music and storytelling to evoke unreconciled truths about my own personal history, as well as my country’s political history. Taxithi is most certainly not only for Greek-Australian audiences – this is an homage to courageous women everywhere who inspire those around them with their unwavering resilience, forgiveness, and love.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.