Greek-Australian artist Luka ‘Lesson’ Haralambou is embarking on a classic journey exploring the notion of love in his newest production ‘Agapi & Other Kinds of Love’, modernising the discussions of it from Socrates in Plato’s ‘The Symposium’ to bring a unique perspective on this theme.
The Brisbane-born poet is set to perform this rap concert/poetic musical/classic history lesson, presented by Riverside Theatres, at the Lennox Theatre in Parramatta, NSW, from February 29-March 1.
The performance draws inspiration from two major sources, the first being the seven different words Greeks and Ancient Greeks have for love which are Eros, Filia, Filoxenia, Philautia, Storgi, Pragma and the ultimate: Agapi.
The second source is Plato’s ‘The Symposium’ which features a speech by Socrates wherein he reveals that he learned everything he knows about love from a woman named Diotima.
“I thought it was interesting that one of the most famous, if not the most famous philosopher of all time, was saying someone else taught him about love and not only someone but a woman, which in Ancient Greece was quite rare,” Mr Lesson told Neos Kosmos.
“He basically gives all of his speech recounting what he was taught by this woman named Diotima and we do not know about Diotima historically. I found all of that out and then, combining that with what l learned about the Ancient Greek types of love, I just started writing.”
The poet with roots from Aigio (through his mother) and Monolithos, Rhodes (through his paternal grandfather) took this inspiration and created this performance which follows both Socrates and Diotima as lovers and then also their reincarnated counterparts in modern times.
“I made it so that Socrates and Diotima are lovers because how else do you learn from someone about love,” Mr Lesson said.
“The show flips between Ancient Greece, where Socrates and Diotima are interacting as lovers, and modern Greece where two reincarnations of Socrates and Diotima (Pavlos and Sophia) are stuck in the middle of a riot in Exarcheia (Εξάρχεια) in Athens.”
The artist added that Pavlos and Sophia run from Exarcheia to the Areopagus, the prominent rock just below the shadow of the Acropolis, the place where St.Paul also famously delivered his sermon preaching the word of Jesus.
“Pavlos and Sophia end up having a dialogue there about the Ancient Greek types of love. Thus, there are these two worlds, the ancient lovers and the modern lovers, and they are both discussing the different types of love,” he said.
The poet added that one of the biggest underlying inspirations behind this latest work is also to bring more love into society, which he believes is lacking today, and raised the significance of Plato covering the theme extensively in “The Symposium”.
“Plato must have decided that there needs to be this book that is all of these Ancient Greek philosophers, playwrights and poets discussing this one topic of love.
Mr Lesson added that he believes love is in our DNA and that “there will always be conversations about love and us tussling with the different aspects of it”.
“I think that actual tussle is imperative to any society to function, for us to be discussing love. Rather than discussing the nuances of war, let us discuss the nuances of love,” he said.
The concert is a blend of three different styles (rap, poetry and history lesson) which Mr Lesson said is emblematic of him as a person and artist, having commenced his artistic career as a rapper first before getting into spoken word poetry.
This, coupled with his love of Ancient History as far back as High School (having also studied anthropology at university), meant that the performance naturally fell into this unique mix of genres.
“These three worlds are so ingrained in me that this project was almost always going to end up like this. I did not mean to it like this, it is just me in my rawest and most real form,” he said.
The artist admitted that he feels very honoured to be able to work as an artist while stressing he feels a certain obligation to help share this ancient Greek knowledge and wisdom with his own twist.
“In some ways, this show is my duty. It is my service to my community, my form of activism, of connecting with people, and of conveying this ancient Greek knowledge in an entertaining way so that it might live on,” he said.
“I also feel like the experience that people will come away with is something that will ripple on beyond the four walls of the theatre. I feel very humbled and honoured that it is my task, that I am the guy that gets to do that.”
He also feels a sense of pride in producing art that is still very Greek in its focus while also veering way from the standard, mainstream forms of Greek creativity/art/music
Mr Lesson stressed that another major benefit he has seen through his art is in engaging with fellow Greek-Australians and having them feel comfortable to say their name in Greek rather than anglicising it.
“I feel like that is also an honour, for me to be able to create that space for people to be themselves and not have to water down or change who they are for the sake of mainstream society.”
Tickets for the show can be purchased at riversideparramatta.com.au/whats-on/agapi-other-kinds-of-love, by calling (02) 8839 3399, or at Box Office at least one hour prior to performance (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9:30am–1pm).
Agapi and Other Kinds of Love is supported by La Boite Theatre, Bleach Festival and the National Museum of Australia.
In addition to Parramatta, the show will be presented at HOTA Gold Coast on February 15, Nexus Arts Centre Adelaide on May 10, The Engine Room Bendigo on May 17, Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne on May 24, and Byron Theatre Byron Bay on August 11
Warning: The performance does contain coarse language.