Artemis Ioannides has been a busy woman.
The young actress is fresh off the back of the award-winning Australian series Wentworth, starring as Vicky Kosta, and is now on stage in Melbourne bringing to life UK playwright Alistair McDowall’s sci-fi thriller Pomona.
Despite having only just opened at Red Stitch Actors Theatre, the play is already receiving rave reviews. But when Ioannides was first approached by director Gary Abrahams she admits she was a little surprised.
“Gary often does these wonderful adaptations of classic texts, so doing a sci-fi thriller on stage I was quite surprised by his choice,” she says, though admits the challenge was too enticing to pass up, as was the cast, which features Red Stitch ensemble members Dion Mills and Mona Mina Leon alongside Arthur Angel, Jessica Clarke, Nicholas Denton and Julie Grace.
Pomona written by McDowall in 2014, when he was just 27, is set in Manchester and is a gripping and complex play about inner-city lowlife. It poses questions of morality, about one’s responsibility towards the darkest aspects of humanity; what lies beneath the veneer of contemporary civilisation and what price must you pay to find it?
Written five years ago, the play is still relevant, if not more so.
“Pomona is very complex just off the page when you read it, and it takes a few goes to try and understand; it was even challenging in the rehearsal process for us to understand how it unfolds, where to pitch it and my character especially is quite a puzzling one,” says Ioannides, who plays Keaton.
“It shines a light on the darkness within humanity and in the society that we live in, and have been living in for a long time, and unfortunately will continue to live in … and turning your head and not wanting to ask too many questions because the more you know, the worse your life is, and how do you survive in a world that’s so dark?”
Adding to the suspense, is the play’s non-linear structure. “It’s quite full on at times because you might be seeing something that happens at the end of the play right at the beginning …” making it highly entertaining, but teetering on the line of dark and horrific, with moments of comedy to give the audience a relief, though the actress emphasises “not too much of a relief”.
Living in an age where we are constantly bombarded with news of horrible events happening around the world, how does Ioannides remain hopeful?
She says it’s about small acts, taking individual responsibility, rather than thinking on a global level, which she admits can be overwhelming.
“Taking individual responsibility for your actions on a day-to-day basis for your thoughts, for your energy that you’re putting out in the world, for the simple choice of listening to the people around you, being honest and doing your best to be the best version of yourself, really good at your job or be a kind and warm person, a good friend, a good parent or daughter, whatever it is – you’re contributing to something,” she says.
“You are one person and you can change someone’s day; you can lift the mood and you can inspire someone else to be their best version because you lead by example … and that seems to be the most immediate, effective way that you can affect change.”
It’s this attitude that has in part contributed to Ioannides’ professional success. Since moving back to Australia from Greece, she has made a number of appearances both on the stage and the small screen.
Just recently she was part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival line-up in Taxithi – An Australian Odyssey, which saw her back on stage with Helen Yotis Paterson and Maria Mercedes. Three years since the show first opened, it continues to receive five star reviews with plans to take it to more cities around Australia.
It has also been a chance for her to explore her love of dancing and singing further, somewhat of a return to her familial roots, as the daughter of composer Tassos Ioannides.
“I never used to sing in Greek although I’ve grown up with a lot of Greek music, especially through my dad, music was constantly in my life,” she says.
“Taxithi has everything that to me promotes the true identity of Greek arts and we have such a rich artistic and cultural life that happens in Greece, but I don’t think that’s reflected in the way that the world sees us necessarily … So it’s been so good to do a show that makes people go ‘oh my god, wow! I had no idea’ and to do it in a really simple and honest way,” she says.
Following her role on Wentworth, Ioannides will be back on our television screens this year on Channel 7’s Secret Bride’s Business, a thriller led by a strong female cast, starring Abby Cornish, Katy McGrath and Georgina Haig.
“It’s really an all star cast, so I think it’s going to get a lot of attention and it’s going to be really good – but very different to Wentworth. So I’m really excited.”
When: Now on until 11 August (Q&A session following performance on Thursday 25 July)
Where: Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre (Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda, VIC)
Tickets: (03) 9533 8083 or www.redstitch.net
Watch the trailer for ‘Pomona’ below:
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