Brother Boy by Nic Velissaris is very Greek, very Australian and very Melbourne, and it is clearly very personal. The playwright has dug deep into his own experience as a first generation Australian of Greek ancestry to create a work that is funny, moving and very powerful. A work that we can all relate to as sons/daughters, even if we do not share the additional challenge of conflicting cultural expectations.
When a father and his two sons come together in a local Greek restaurant after the funeral of their wife and mother, all the raw, unspoken tensions between them as father and sons, as first generation Australian born versus Greek immigrant parent, and as brothers, come powerfully to the surface. This is very much a play about identity and the way (as we are told in voice over at the beginning) each of struggles to cut our own personal Gordian Knot in order to discover our real selves.
The play opens with the younger brother, Stavros/Steve (Alex Tsitsopoulos) and his father/Baba (Tony Nikolakopoulos) waiting in their local Greek cafe for the arrival of the older son, Arthur (Ben Adam). There is Greek music on the radio, Greek flags, banners and memorabilia decorating the walls. The owner of the cafe, Stelio (Steve Mouzakis), seeks to ease the tension of waiting with coffee, Ouzo and a game of cards. The power fails and in darkness we hear Arthur (Ben Adam) describing home as 'hell'. The lights come up, Arthur arrives, and the tensions begin to boil over.
This was the first preview, but despite this the performances were as strong as the emotional impact, and they can only improve as the season progresses. Tony Nikolakopoulos had exceptional presence as the father and Alex Tsitsopooulos was very credible as the disgruntled younger brother who exhibited all the stereotypical characteristic of a young Greek lad trying desperately for acceptance by Australians – trackie daks, trainers, Tshirt and cap matched with a strong ocker accent. The older son, Arthur, is the outsider, the son who chose to be an actor and now lives in Sydney, the one who finds it hard to come 'home'.
The writing, with both Greek and Australian dialogue, is strong, the set works (and was used) extremely well. Director Peta Hanrahan ensures that the action moves steadily forwards, without dull patches, from gentle camaraderie, through emotional confrontation to ultimate, and believable, reconciliation.
This is the sort of theatre I love, theatre which engages, draws you in, punches you in the gut and leaves you thinking. It was also very funny and ultimately life affirming, whilst never glossing over painful realities.
Brother Boy closes this Sunday; it's well worth making an effort to catch one of the final performances.
Brother Boy productions in association with Big West Arts Festival presents
by Nic Velissaris
Venue: Dancing Dog Café | 42a Albert St Footscray 3011
Dates: Fri 23 – Sun 25 Nov; Wed 28 Nov – Sun 2 Dec
Previews: 21 & 22 Nov
Tickets: $20 / $15
Bookings: 03 9380 1095