Effie returns for two exclusive Christmas Cracker performances of her successful hit show, Better Out Than In at the Yarraville Club on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 December. The Greek Australian comic goes up on stage determined to say goodbye not to one but to two years, while, pouring her heart on stage like never before.
“The past Covid years were bad, so bad, that I contemplated writing a memoir called ‘Eat, Pray, Eat.’ Yes, things got scary… and hairy,” she tells Neos Kosmos in true Effie style.
“It became blatantly obvious that the government and I had very different definitions of the term ‘Essential Services.’ I’m sorry but for wogs, hair removal is definitely an essential service!” she adds before switching back to Mary Coustas to say that she wants to make people “breathe”.
ALCHEMISING TWO YEARS OF COLLECTIVE INTROSPECTION
Having surrendered to a “rough time” she highlights that she made an effort to find the “good bit” in a multitude of situations that spiralled an avalanche of inner work and realisations. In this show, Effie becomes the mouthpiece for a lot of what people felt, a dramatic but comical, very honest and transparent view of the last couple of years.
With Christmas coming up, a time people start questioning their lives a lot, she wants to offer her fans a place to vent.
“For better or worse, it’s a very dangerous part of the year for people that are lost and are feeling hopeless and alone. It does set up a huge expectation and some sort of ledger for ‘are you winning?’ That day of the year, when everyone’s supposed to be happy, together, getting presents and well dressed. It’s not like that for everyone. It goes to show that there’s so much under the carpet,” she points out.
“Covid made all those issues even more prominent. It was bad, sad and lonely for everyone, not just the few. It also taught us that if we are put in a pressure cooker again, different aspects of who we are -that we never thought were possible- come out. My whole life I’ve been in a false economy of delusion. Covid put a handbrake on everything and made me think. It changed me and you, and all of us. We went back to centre, appreciating the simple things in life. The essence of what keeps us TRULY alive.”
LAUGHTER AS A SHIELD FOR RACISM
For Coustas, laughter has become even more vital, a boulder between the pain and separation the world has experienced. In her early years, she would escape the separation that came from being the “wog”, the child of migrants, through laugher. Not belonging here and not belonging in the country her family had to let go of either. Although, her parents stoically “kept keeping on” she feels that she inherited a deep-rooted melancholy.
“They didn’t talk about it, but I could see their sadness in terms of trying to belong. As a child, I went from multicultural Collingwood to a more middle class area and I realised that not only I was not accepted but I was being punished for being different. That coupled with what I saw my parents go through and what they were deprived of so that I wouldn’t have a better life. All migrants go through this. The privileges we have came at a price they paid.”
Growing up, she perceived the presence of a barrier that “we migrants didn’t build” but in a way made the culturally diverse invisible, ignored or misunderstood. Born in Australia, but growing up in a time diversity was not honoured felt like she was carrying the shrapnel of the racism her parents experienced in her psyche.
“My parents like many others barricaded themselves in their Greekness, and we, born between two cultures were on one hand rebelling against parts of the diaspora Greek culture that come from limitation or outdated tradition, and parts of Australia that saw us as ‘foreign’. Not to say that Greeks can’t be harsh on other cultures…”
That heaviness that was suffocating her, she carbonated with humour, satire. Racism, classism, sexism, all the shadow-isms were brought to light.
“Laughter is a necessity. I don’t know where I would be career-wise, mental health-wise, life-wise. If I didn’t have laughter to turn to. It’s saved my life on many occasions, being able to see things from that perspective and turn them on their head.”
“Being a performer with live audiences and being Greek, it was extra big for me. It was heavy to realise how much of a social animal I am as a Greek; how much our oxygen lies in the connecting with others,” she explains.
“It’s a heart-speak, this show, about this new reality that most of us are still navigating. Somehow the ripple effects of it are still present.”
BEHIND THE MASKS WE ARE ALL THE SAME
For Coustas, this period brought out a lot of hidden aspects in people under the pretence of political correctness, instead of making us connect even more and be open to different points of view. “Fear becomes something more sinister because people don’t want to, and can’t see it,” whereas comedy brings to the surface uncomfortable truths about ourselves, even if it’s wearing a different mask. There are some extraordinary gems hidden in the ordinary and vice-versa that Effie’s persona helps her touch on.
“Effie is my greatest mouthpiece and has been for years a tool to keep conversation alive, but I’m doing a lot more as Mary. My audience is very diverse. In ethnicity, in age in sexual inclination and in culture. As Effie I can talk about everything. They feel so comfortable and not judged by the character. They relate. I’m a surrogate for the feelings of the audience.”
Coustas believes, there is much more people share than they realise. We perceive the world through separation but the currency that we all have is individuality. When she performs in smaller venues she reads the room, bathes in the energy of the audience and uses it to generate a more authentic, “in the moment” approach. He goal is to be present.
“I talk to my audience. They know I see them, they know I am their equal, and through me and Effie’s stories they can process things that are triggering, they can mirror their traumas, collective or individual and alchemise them.”
Having experienced loss from a very young age, from the loss of her father to undergoing 23 IVF rounds and a miscarriage, she is well-acquainted with life and death situations, the loss of self and rebirth.
“I’ve risen from the ashes and I try to show people that they can get up no matter what life throws at them. I ask myself the same questions… Who am I? What am I here for? What good can I do? What good do I leave behind? How can I add value to the people that matter to me and to the world at large?”
Coustas argues these questions sit at both ends of the spectrum. She has witnessed people go from not wanting to stand out and struggling to blend in, to making it their life’s purpose to be seen, valued and to come across as “different”.
“There is a push and pull, that leads to the same spot for all of us, the centre!” she muses. That centre is love.
Positive, honest, loving self-talk is the most important conversation one can and should ever have, she insists, stressing that we need to be very careful of the stories we tell ourselves, and careful of us always thinking we are right.
“That’s dangerous,” she says. “Checking in constantly with ourselves is really important. Especially when we have conversations with many. Perspective becomes healthy through the differences of opinion and acceptance of that difference. That’s true democracy in progress.”
“If you are human you are going to have feelings and feelings go up and down. If you’re human you’re bound to agree and disagree with others. Sometimes, life is painful so let’s put some laughter around it! This show is my little happy pill. It’s going to be a different kind of “pill” this time. You’re laughing as much as you’re crying but the side-splitting pain here is the healing I’m offering. So come have a cracker with me!”
Tickets for Hello Good Thanks – Better Out Than In’ on sale now through yarravillelive.com
When: 9 & 10 December, Doors open: 6.00pm (dining); 7.30pm (show only)
Where: The Yarraville Club, 135 Stephen St Yarraville.