REVIEW: George Kapiniaris in ZORBA THE FREAK

Aussie comedy icon brings in the laughs

By Christine Young

George Kapiniaris bounds onto the stage with the zest Greeks are famous for.

“I didn’t know there were Greeks in Frangers. Are there Greeks in Frangers?

Yes, we’re here. A small cheer came from the audience. It’s easy to imagine that, in venues closer to the city, the crowd roars back.

And Kapiniaris must have boundless energy because he’s also currently touring the nation with Wild Wogs. Μπράβο! When does he sleep?

Zorba the Freak

The Franger/Frankston audience of the comedian’s latest one-man show Zorba the Freak took a little while to warm up but Kapiniaris wasn’t deterred. He gave us his all. Maybe we even got a better performance because we were slow to engage. While the show pays tribute to being Greek – including an hilarious sequence of 1980s song parodies – Kapiniaris also comically muses on marriage and parenthood. He also happily takes the piss out of himself as well as Greek attitudes to Cypriots, Macedonians and Turks. And, of course, ‘Skippy the Bush Kanagarouthas’ (Anglo-Australians) are sent up too.

Kapiniaris is a pioneer of ‘ethnic humour’ in Australia (though ‘ethnic’ seems a misnomer because we all have an ethnicity).  Even so, he has a long list of television and theatre credits which haven’t relied on his Greek heritage. Interestingly, this probably couldn’t have happened without his role in the ground-breaking 1987 play, Wogs out of Work, which co-starred Nick Giannopoulos, Mary Coustas and Simon Palomares. The show that came about because non-Anglo/Celtic actors couldn’t land roles in mainstream theatre launched diverse careers for Kapiniaris and his peers. It’s also paved the way for countless migrant comedians since.

However, back to Zorba. This show is not just for people from Greek or migrant backgrounds. Kapiniaris’s antics are ‘totally relatable’, as an audience member, who was in hysterics, told me. This reviewer was also impressed by an Australian woman who knew several innocent Greek words starting with ‘fak’. I’m half-Greek and I only knew two of them!

Melbourne songstress Maria Maroulis opens and closes the show with the stirring ‘Dinata’ which was made famous at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games by Eleftheria Arvanitaki. The musical interludes, which include some bouzouki (what else?) and audience participation, add to the liveliness of Kapiniaris’s antics.

While the show wasn’t a side-splitter for me personally, most of the audience was laughing up a storm. So don’t take my word for it: go and see Zorba the Freak for yourself!

Venue: Frankston Arts Centre, Victoria; touring nationally
Dates: 3rd July (Wollongong, NSW), 17th October (Sydney, NSW), 24th October 2015 (West Wyalong, NSW)