Life of Byron, at Alex Theatre (Melbourne) and The Fusebox (Sydney) - 105 minutes, plus interval
The relationship between a mother and son is heartfelt, but it can also be fractious.
Think of the original ABC TV comedy series of that name starring Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald that ran for a decade until 1994.
Recently, it has been reimagined with Denise Scott and Matt Okine playing the leads.
Writer, director and producer Tony Nikolakopoulos, alongside co-writer Sally Faraday, have taken the theme and added a decidedly Greek twist.
Photos by Mauro Trentin
Life of Byron steps through the fictitious life and times of a man of that name (George Kapiniaris).
Mind you, it is based on experiences that Nikolakopoulos and Kapiniaris have had and people they have met.
Byron has just spent five years away from Australia “finding himself”.
He arrives home to news from his sister Alex (Maria Theodorakis) that it is time their ageing mother – who is showing signs of dementia – be put into a home.
While sorting through the latter’s gold coloured trunk, Byron reflects on the years that have passed … from when he was a kid to where he is today.
Humour, heart and pathos make comfortable bedfellows in Life of Byron.
This son’s relationship with his mother has always been prickly.
Alex – the younger of the pair – was considered the smarter of the siblings. She was the one who received a private school education.
Byron lost his father at an early age and resented his mum’s smothering Greek ways, even though he was and is a momma’s boy.
Told in chapters, with historic, video-based footage by way of introductions, Life of Byron takes us through the titular character’s highs and lows.
That includes the impact of dressing up in traditional Greek attire as a six-year-old and his rebellious teens.
The production deals with his attempted loss of virginity on his 18th birthday and his subsequent trip to Greece as a young man. It is there that he has designs of a non-blood relative.
Marriage, children, working 17-hour days in a fish and chip shop in Shepparton and much more are also covered.
There are umpteen references to popular haunts in Melbourne back in the day and Bryon’s ungainly courting and politically incorrect references to women.
While the word Neanderthal comes to mind, it is all deliberately done, with shock value and good humour in mind.
Although primarily in English, Byron and a number of characters played by Theodorakis often break out into Greek speak.
That also generates laughs among those in the know.
But this is not a play that will just appeal to Greeks, rather one that will resonate among anyone with familial ties.
There is much to like about the way Life of Byron has been constructed and executed.
Exaggerated for theatrical effect, it still has authenticity at its core. In other words, it feels real.
Well directed, the timing is excellent. The scenes are unhurried. They play out seamlessly to build a complete picture of a man who has made plenty of missteps along the way.
George Kapiniaris is such a natural. He channels anger and frustration, lust and love.
Maria Theodorakis is mighty impressive too, stepping effortlessly through the multiple roles she fills.
They include primary school teacher, girlfriend, Greek Customs Officer, Greek love interest, electrician, wife, waxing specialist, sister and mother. All resonate.
By curtain call, you feel that Byron has ridden many bumps and taken more than a few hits, but his underlying love for his mother remains intact.
Life of Byron is playing at Alex Theatre in St Kilda until 22nd October and then moves to The Fusebox in Marrickville from 31st October to 12th November, 2023.