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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Mary Coustas: This is Personal at Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne - 65 minutes

Comedian and actor Mary Coustas is an emotional powerhouse, whose hour-long show endears her anew to a devoted fan base.

She is an enormous talent who draws upon her personal experiences (how her life has been shaped) to make us laugh and cry, through love and loss.

Combining verbal and physical comedy with pathos, her stories primarily – though not exclusively – centre around her beloved father and mother.

Photos by Cassandra Hannagan

Her dad – who suffered from a bad ticker and died early – imparted life lessons.

Her mum landed in Melbourne at age 18 with nothing.

Neither seemed all that enamoured about Mary’s decision to pursue her passion – show business.

Her father’s response to her first performance after she took acting classes is one of the many priceless vignettes in this highly entertaining and engaging show.

Mary’s delivery style serves as a master class on how to reach and captivate an audience.

With slick pacing and exemplary comic timing, she is natural, warm, funny and moving throughout.

The personal anecdotes – which also involve her brother, extended family, friends, bullies and her daughter – keep on coming.

Often inflated, but heartfelt characterisations are the name of the game.

She keeps giving of herself (this is, after all an intimate theatrical experience) and don’t we just love it!

The subject matter is wide-ranging.

In no particular order, that includes pretentious mothers, sex, heart attacks, racism, gender, death, IVF, swivel chairs and bodily functions.

There is gardening, carpet tiles, beauty, sleazy overtures, finding Mr Right, height, pet names and Hey Hey It’s Saturday.

That is not to overlook acting, dedication, friendship, Mary’s 10 commandments and more.

She talks about her personal demons, her family highs and lows, how much difficulty she had falling pregnant and the fear she holds being an older mother.

Mary’s ability to change the tone of her performance is part of what makes her great and is one of the best features of This is Personal.

One moment she is channeling belly laughs, the next it is drama and then tears (bring tissues), and she doesn’t miss a beat.

Primarily delivered in English, not infrequently she switches effortlessly to drop a Greek phrase or two. Native speakers are in raptures.

Not surprising, among Mary’s finest moments are when she assumes the exaggerated Greek accent that brought her such adulation as Effie.

But this isn’t a show about Effie. Rather, Mary delves deep into her past, going back to when she was nine years of age and doubt, terror and dread crept into her life.

Her Greek heritage has been a blessing and, through no fault of her own, a curse (the latter due to the discrimination she faced because of it).

Life has tested Mary Coustas, but she is nothing if not a survivor. In fact, more than that.

Judging by what I saw on stage, Mary is thriving and remains at the peak of her powers as a performer extraordinaire.

Directed by Blazey Best, This is Personal is a triumph of spirit and showmanship, Mary Coustas at her brilliant and ballsy best.

It is on at Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until 2nd July, 2023.


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