KORALY- I say the wrong things all the time (La Mama, Melbourne)

I’ve been wanting to see Koraly Dimitriadis’ new theatre piece since she first advertised it some months ago, but it was the next to the last night of the season when I saw it. Ever since stumbling over a copy of Love and Fuck Poems in a bookstore in 2013, I have been a fan of her strong voice and tell-it-like-it-is passion.

Part of the appeal of her work is the crossing of boundaries, the naming of names, calling a spade a fucking shovel. More so, because it comes in the context of her being a good Greek girl from a good family. She spills her guts out all over the page in an honest and very visceral way.

So tonight I’m interested to see how that has developed over the past three years or so. Has she moved into a new realm, or will she keep mining the angry Effie seam that has brought her attention?

Tonight’s show is based loosely around some of her poems from Love and Fuck Poems, with some new additions. It also includes excerpts from the Good Greek Girl Film Project, used structurally to allow for costume changes and scene breaks. The performance consists of a series of poems, strung together by context and content into a coherent whole. They do not tell a story as much as spin a series of stories around a person. Koraly is the story.

She uses costume changes – from Cypriot folk dress to mini-skirt or bridal gown, (there is some inherent irony in the poem where she talks of selling her wedding dress on eBay as clearly she is getting some use from it in this series of plays), to emphasise the action and aspects of the character that she is voicing.

The changing and careful pacing of the stage action keeps it different to most spoken word performances. This is theatre, and it’s obvious that work has gone into choreography, from dancing Cypriot folk style to using her books as props, or delivering kourabiethes to the audience in mock mama mode.

Having seen some of these poems read before, it’s refreshing to see how Koraly had subtly altered them. What were once torrents of rage and frustration, are now much more measured. There is a range of emotion that was not always previously apparent in the hothouse of spoken word. She tempers the passion, underlines it in other areas and shows a wider range than is obvious from a quick reading of her work. Much of the humour that lies within the rage was brought to the surface in this performance too, although there were also many nervous titters at graphic language and the occasional in-draw of shocked breath when Koraly tells us in detail what she wanted to do to her pick up.

The topics that Koraly covers are familiar in most cases to anyone who has seen her work: the death of her marriage, the clash of expectations with her parents, the difficulties of relationships as a single mother, sex sex sex, men who are bastards and the ways and means by which she punishes herself throughout while searching for her voice.

There were some new pieces too, and the second last section of the night, where Koraly accepts her parents and herself for who they are and their good intent was for me the most moving of the evening. It signals a growing maturity in her work, a breaking away from the mad Mediterranean stereotype that she has used so well until now. It was also the most quietly performed reading, with an elegiac air.

Much of the power of tonight’s performance was in the contrast between Koraly at her height of anger and passion to Koraly accepting, musing, and humouring herself. She has used performance skills to wash her work with new layers of meaning, to broaden it appeal, while losing none of the power that lies in truth telling. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

KORALY: :I say the wrong things all the time was at La Mama from November 30 until December 11.

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