Looming the memory (A bittersweet story about home and place)

Thomas Papathanassiou is a theatre-maker with insatiable energy.
Calling him an actor is insufficient when after one sees his one man show, Looming the Memory.
Papathanassiou plays over 18 characters in the play, “It’s a one man show and I play over eighteen characters I play papou, yia yia, I play ghosts, and even a chicken.”
He loves chickens, “I had an intense love of kotes and I used to play with chickens at home, I love them…” he thinks a little and adds, “It’s kind of weird, isn’t it?”
For all its comedy there is also seriousness, Looming the Memory is about Papathanassiou’s memory as well as the memories we all share; it is immigrants’ zeitgeist in looking for home and not finding it.
Papathanassiou won the Best Actor 2006 by the WA Equity Guild Awards, and the work received the 2007 Best Production Blue Room Awards.
Some of the better Greek Australian theatre does not come from Australia’s Greek city, Melbourne, but from cities such as, Perth, where Thomas works and lives.
Maybe, it is because of the isolation, or the need to really define one’s identity, that allows for creative freedom, unlike the comfort zone of Melbourne’s overwhelming Hellenism.
Looming the Memory is set in the cellar of a house in a Greek village, an old woman whispers to herself as she weaves on her loom.
Back in Australia, her grandson endeavours to understand his life by unravelling his family’s stories.
But, the memories don’t make sense, so he journeys back to Greece to visit his family.
Along the way he uncovers dark truths about his family’s past.
Papathanasiou says, “It is about a guy’s search for home, it’s about a guy going back to Greece to find home its not there.”
He adds, “When I was in Greece, the locals make me feel that I don’t belong there, and when I come here I sometimes feel I don’t belong here.”
Looming the Memory is about migration, but it is far from typical, it is a funny, bittersweet, dark and overtly surreal.
Papathanasiou adds, “The stage has a loom and a rug on it, it is symbolic, memory is critical in defining who we are. I remember visiting my grandmother in Greece when I was young, and she had a rug, and in that rug I saw a button and various materials, weaved in it, they were so poor that they would use all sorts of materials, and now I think ‘this button belonged to someone’, it has a history, so in a sense the rug is symbolic of the looming of memories.”
With all of its 18 characters, including grandmothers, ghosts, and a chicken are bought to life in a sensitive and comic 75 minutes.
This is a journey by Papathanasiou into myth, memory, and identity through powerful Homeric storytelling and highly physical theatre.
It is a homage to our difficult, honest and largely comedic Hellenic narrative that frames us all.
Looming the Memory is on between May 21 and 31 at LaMama, Carlton
(source: neos kosmos)