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More than just another bar joke …

Comedian Ross Vosvotekas and musician Stan Bastiras join forces in the Melbourne Fringe Festival in a show celebrating Greek Australian culture

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(L-R) Stan Bastiras and Ross Vosvotekas

20 September 2017

If you are on the lookout for an original show celebrating the fusion of cultures, then Two Greek Australians Walk into a Bar is probably the best choice you can make at this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Following a successful Adelaide Fringe season, the show is coming to Melbourne next week, running for eight performances during the festival.

With a title reminiscent of a good old-fashioned bar joke, the show promises a mixture of comedy and musical mayhem, while performers Stan Bastiras and Ross Vosvotekas draw on their experience growing up as first- and second-generation Greeks in Adelaide, aiming to showcase Greek Australian culture at its best.

Viewers are invited to embark on a 50-minute 'journey' of live entertainment, with Stan playing keyboard and singing throughout the show and Ross taking up the comedian's role.

One of the highlights of the performance is the Πάμε όλοι στην Αυστραλία song, describing how Stan's family migrated Down Under, with the audience singing along the chorus in Greek, followed by its English version.

"We try and encourage participation in the show, whether people want to sing along with us or just clap and obviously laugh and react," Ross tells Neos Kosmos.

This is also what drove them to stage the show at a restaurant instead of a theatre.

"We are hoping to create a festive atmosphere where people can come along, have some authentic Greek food and a drink, enjoy the show and ultimately enjoy all the aspects of the culture," he adds.

Meanwhile, despite the predominance of Greek Australian content, the show speaks to the hearts of people from different backgrounds, as it draws on themes prevalent in many Mediterranean, Balkan and even Anglo cultures.

"There are obviously added layers of Mediterranean and especially Greek culture, but we've created this show for everyone really."

Serbians, Italians, Polish folk and Croatians were some of the nationalities that the show attracted, when presented at Adelaide Fringe last year.

"I think that different ethnic groups can relate to the show and they get the jokes because food and family and all these elements, even though they are presented through a Greek lens, they are not specific to Greek culture.

"Sometimes we focus on the differences between the cultures, but actually there is probably more in common."

What Ross deems as the show's comparative advantage, along with the combination of different elements – comedy, theatre and music – is also the fact that it brings together the perspectives of two unique individuals and artists on the stage.

Stan, a retired scientist, has been a musician for over 30 years and in 2013 he wrote and staged the original musical Mick & Leo, while Ross studied theatre and has been doing stand-up comedy for the last 10 years.

Being a one-man theatre company, Ross writes, directs and performs plays and hosts a variety of shows, with over fifteen productions since 2014.

Interestingly, Ross attended high school with Stan's children, with their paths crossing later in life working together within the Adelaide arts scene.

"Two Greek Australians walk into a bar" was initially part of the Adelaide festival Hellenika before being staged for the Adelaide Fringe 2017.

It wasn't long after Ross approached Stan to co-create the original musical and comedy show, that the idea came into fruition.

"We have a thing called 'Greek time', where things sort of get planned last moment!", Ross says with a laugh.

For Ross, Adelaide Fringe 2018 is the next big challenge, where he plans to present Marathon, a play translated in English from Italian, while also trying to fit in comedy, shows and other projects for the rest of the year.

"In this industry you have to think six months or even a year ahead. There is a lot of planning and multitasking involved but I love the arts and to get stuff done you can't just sit around, you have to initiate," he explains.

For the moment though, both Ross and Stan are devoting their hours and energies to prepare for the Two Greek Australians Walk Into A Bar upcoming performances.

"Stan and I both really excited for opening this show to a Melbourne audience […] It went quite successful in the Adelaide fringe and people gave us good feedback so it was sort of a natural progression for us to want to take it in Melbourne, for the big Greek community there."

'Two Greek Australians Walk Into A Bar' is on at Hobba restaurant, 428 Malvern Rd, Prahran, VIC, from Wednesday 20 - Friday 29 September.
For bookings go to melbournefringe.com.au/event/two-greek-australians-walk-into-a-bar/

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