Moving portayals of resilient Greek-Australian women
By Myron My
Inspired by her grandmothers, Helen Yotis Patterson has compiled a number of stories of Greek women who migrated to Australia in the 1950s and 60s. While the narratives and their characters are often filled with hope and excitement for a better life, they are sometimes met with disappointment and frustrations. Despite this, the women presented in Taxithi (Greek for ‘journey’) are fiercely strong and determined.
The impressive cast – Maria Mercedes, Artemis Ioannides and Helen Yotis Patterson – bring much honesty with their portrayals of these women. While some stories are taken directly from Yotis Patterson’s family history, the cast are clearly poignantly connected with all the experiences that are played out. There are well-crafted moments throughout, including Mercedes’ emotional lament at missing her mother’s final moments as she traveled back to Greece and Ioannides’ striking performance as a young bride who find herself in an arranged marriage.
The music is one of the strongest elements of Taxithi. Musical director, arranger and pianist Andrew Patterson has captured the era perfectly along with Jacob Papadopoulos‘ masterful bouzouki playing. During the musical moments, the three women’s voices elicited strong emotive responses from the audience, to the point where even my non-Greek speaking friends were able to feel what was being sung. John Ford and Rachel Burke‘s lighting design and Darius Kedros‘ sound design, while both minimal, are still highly effective, especially in the evocative opening moments with the sound of waves crashing in the ocean, making you feel as if you yourself are on the ship travelling to Australia.
Towards the end of the performance, I admit I did feel the stories started to become slightly repetitious, with quite a few revolving around young girls immigrating to get married. Had Yotis Patterson perhaps narrowed the quantity of stories and explored her powerful themes even further, this repetition would have been resolved and the emotional connection with the characters could have been even stronger.
However, at a time where we are denying people entry into our country who are trying to escape persecution from their own, Taxithi serves as a telling reminder that “letting people in” is not a bad thing and only allows our lives and culture to become richer. Furthermore, the journeying tales of Taxithi teach us to always remain resilient and to fight for what we want in life, and that is something everyone can strive towards, regardless of sex, gender or race.
Image by Sarah Walker www.sarahwalkerphotos.com