Sydney playwright Alex Lykos’ love for writing and passion for bringing Australia’s cultural diversity to life on the stage culminates in his new show It’s War.
Opening to a full house in Sydney’s Factory Theatre, Lykos’ latest piece depicts the everyday conflicts which so often develop between neighbours in a typical Australian suburban street. With its markedly changing demographic, the inner west Sydney suburb of Marrickville is Lykos’ vehicle for a hilarious yet insightful exploration of neighbourly relationships.
It’s War tells the story of a different kind of war, one in which neighbourly friendships get tested with one party’s backyard house extension exploding into a war that tests friendships. The backyard is uniquely Australian. Front yards are prettied up for show. The backyard is where people live. It’s an environment evoking rich imagery that speaks powerfully to the human condition and provides important clues to the Australian identity.
With such an authentic sense of place, we connect with the play’s portrayal of the backyard as being a feature so symbolic of ourselves that we should fight to hold on to it.
It’s War depicts the experience of neighbours confronting life and friendship and their efforts to balance these with individual interests.
“It’s a light-hearted comedy which explores how egos can get in the way and bring out the worst in people,” Lykos says.
Basing much of his work on personal stories in one form or another, Lykos imbues these with a magical realism that lends them a special quality.
“Storytelling is something we instinctively love, in all mediums. We love that ritual. No matter what, it will remain.”
According to Lykos, the seed for the play was sown from casual conversations at parties where stories about neighbours are a common theme. Lykos says he had the idea for a long time.
“But then I found the narrative on which I could hang all these anecdotes. And I found the way to anchor the narrative in a secret that gets unveiled in the play. That was when I knew I could go ahead and write it.”
In many ways the backyard has become an Australian story. As Lykos knows, the iconic Australian backyard is more than a Hills Hoist and barbecues. It is a metaphor for the weaving together of the lives and stories of Australia and Australians, a special space where we belong.
It doesn’t matter if we’ve got a courtyard, a balcony, a paddock or a quarter-acre block, the backyard is our own little piece of paradise and we will do anything to protect it. We love our backyards. But we often forget the dividers that we all have – the fences.
Lykos understands this and his new production holds us spellbound. Having just wrapped up the filming of Alex and Eve: The Movie, Lykos never rests. Although enjoying the film process immensely, he says theatre has something special.
“Theatre is my roots. It’s that organic process. The beauty of theatre is that storytellers and audience go on a journey together, it is a communal thing, a really joyful experience … a shared moment,” Lykos explains passionately.
“Film is great and the end result is fantastic but film is a process, a job. The exhilaration, from what I can see, is all about seeing a final product on the screen. Theatre goes from working on scripts to being script in hand, off script, performing it, opening night, feedback, the next night and so on. It’s a complete journey, one of discovering a character.”
It’s War comprises an eclectic mix of emerging talent and experienced actors, giving the play a powerful balance. Jenny Apostolou uses her experience to lead the way as the backbone of the piece while commendable debutant Maria Tran is simply outstanding. Ably supported by fellow newcomer Marissa Marie Kaye, Janette Lakiss, Chris Argirousis and Ben Maclaine, the performers bring tremendous heart to the tale, leaving us with the feeling that we are a part of the twists and turns in their warring lives.
For the past seven years Alex Lykos has championed relevant, accessible and contemporary theatrical explorations of multicultural Australia that are not limited in relevance to just the Greek Australian community. Like much of his work, It’s War creatively touches on universal themes of love, anger, loyalty and relationships and is for that audience which appreciates the nuances of culture and place and their reconciliation through storytelling.
If you are looking for heart and soul in a theatre piece, with lots of hearty laughs thrown in for good measure, then It’s War might be just the ticket you seek. Playing at the Factory Theatre, it is provocative and thoughtful. Enjoy the journey.
The play’s final performances were on the weekend.