Anna Cominos goes back to her roots
Savvas Limnatitis chose one of Sydney’s Brighton Le Sands’ numerous Greek coffee shops – to talk to the performer about her up-coming show 'Return To the Village'
Granted, she is funny, very funny actually. You know the type: the one that can have you rolling on the floor with her ironic comments and a seemingly seamless stream of one- liners. A prerequisite if you wish, for her ‘Return to the Village”. But it takes a bit more clowning around to keep an eager audience happy and entertained, today.
Guess what though? Anna Cominos has always had the story-telling bug. In a sense the current show is an extension of her journeys to her ancestral lands as well as into her psyche. Anna takes us into her own personal experiences (as an expat) who had make the journey back to her ancestral village on the Greek island of Kythera, which she had lived on & off for over 20 years. It’s those experiences and memories that inform her craft and make up the current show, Return To The Village.
Along with titbits from her life and the images that have been imprinted, in the back of her retina. Where did the idea for the show spring from?
Easy. From the stories she has the habit of telling around busy tables and amongst relatives and friends. “At the essence of it, this show is about Otherness. In the universality of my story it’s every one’s story”. Ulterior motives? To make people feel at ease with their Otherness, their shadow side “Plus I wanted to be on stage again”.
Return To The Village is an semi-autobiographical piece like this has its strength and appeal hidden in its essence of truth. “It’s really about ancestral wisdom. We, as human beings, have access to the stories of the past, in our DNA and we have the birthright to them”. “I call it Kythera, but it’s an actually an idea that everyone carries inside them. It’s the utopia”.
“I think everyone is seeking their own Utopia, It’s been renamed in different ways. There are moments in each person’s private life as well as the communal public life, when you have access to the real world, and ancient wisdom.
Anna considers herself lucky that her grandparents never left the village. Her grandmother passed away when Cominos was in her 40s, which kept the door to the family stories wide open for her. “All I did was walk through that door. And from that I got access to the University of Life. I got to experience both life & death, gardening, olive picking and more. I got to live seasonally, within the laws of nature”.
Life has the knack of teaching us lessons. So what did she learn about Greece or Australia? “Kythera is a very interesting place. It one of the largest islands in Greece and has year –round population of less than 4000. But it wasn’t what I learned…. but what I absorbed. While I speak Greek with an Australian accent, under my skin is 20 years of experience of Ancestral culture. My grandmother was my ‘all-areas access pass’ to that life. I learned that there’s more to life than modern consumer culture. The way I perceive Greek culture is it’s old school - it’s very narrow and very deep. In contrast, Modern Australian culture is brand-new, it is very shallow but very broad. You can reinvent yourself in both places.
“If you are looking back to a different homeland” she continues, “then you are constantly living in the past. But I think with the second generation you begin to expand cultural interaction. It’s a bit like cooking really. If you mix a lot of different ingredients in the pot you create something different each time”.
Obviously, the biggest, most important lessons are the ones Anna learnt about herself. She considers herself lucky to be able to live between two worlds, although she is first to admit, it creates like a cultural carsickness. Return To The Village explores the issue of identity. “Which part of our do we serve? If we are serving the Greek part are we living in the past and a Greece that does not exist? If we are serving the Australian part, are we denying a heritage that goes back to ancient times?
“I have been fortunate to embrace both parts and that’s what this show is about”. Along the way, Anna discovered that she is funny in both languages. “I learned where my love of story & comedy comes from. I learned to be flexible in order to survive, that I like to live in a community, around people. But the biggest discover was that every day in the village is the same, yet different at the same time. I discovered that I was part of a story. Even if I wasn’t there.”.
What about nostalgia? “The show is not about nostalgia”.. “You can get you can get stuck in Nostalgia. I would say that nostalgia is not my friend”. This comedy arose from her need to communicate and be on stage. “I think that people expected that from me. And it developed from there”. She has been working closely with Director Vana Argyris, and Dramaturg Catherine Fargher. “I feel there is immense potential. This story is about the goddess within us, about the grandmother bond. It’s a universal story.the idea for the show had long been on my bucket list of things to do. I thought ‘if I don’t do it now, then when?’”
Warning! “Anyone expecting to see yet another “wog story” will be immensely disappointed”, Anna explains. Return To The Village goes a lot deeper than that, cutting through the usual trappings of that particular genre. As she explains “the show an eccentric perception of everything that is happening around her. It’s about the stories she hears, the food she eats, the people she meets. So if you are looking for a wog story don’t bother coming. You will be hugely disappointed. But if you like cabaret, you like comedy, you like songs, then please come. It’s just happens to be a story written by someone with an ethnic surname”.
Ready to rush off, Anna sends a thank you to the people that have toiled in the background to get the show on its feet and running. “I have had the support of people that I know over the last thirty years. People that I have worked with in theatre, many of my friends. See you all at the Factory Theatre, filakia!
When: 9.30pm Tuesday 27, Wednesday 28, Thursday 29, Friday 30 September
Where: Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Street, Marrickville
Bookings: 90206966 and www.fringecomedyfestival.com.au
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