In KORALY: I Say The Wrong Things All The Time, Koraly Dimitriadis takes on the messy inexpressibilities of “love, family, culture, and the pressure to conform”. Weaving between poetic indictments and vivid illustrations about past romantic relationships and anecdotal fragments about family and cultural identity, Dimitriadis’ work is a deeply personal account that attempts to unknot these complicated tangles by highlighting the pressing need to, and the act of, speaking about these complications.
Written and performed by Dimitriadis, KORALY shines theatrically in a few key juxtapositions in the themes and content it probes. In particular, Dimitriadis successfully highlights the contradictions in trying to ‘authentically’ belong through a keen juxtaposition between the feminist struggle to reconcile politics with personal pleasure, and the cultural struggle to reconcile ‘Australian-ness’ with being a “daughter of migrants”. Tied to these struggles is the male-dominated backdrop that emerges through the performer’s resistance against the controlling, patriarchal habits of the performer’s domestic familial sphere, and then as her furious challenge against the attempt to diminish her maternal relationship to her own daughter in the wake of a divorce. These sections lend themselves to intuitively realised parallels that emphasise the invisibility of the ties binding individuals and family structures to narratives that only repress and damage all involved.
Dimitriadis’ also passionately and insistently interrogates cultural norms, particularly surrounding the unrealistic, repressive expectations of Greek women, primarily directed at them by well-meaning family members. Another strength of the production lies in Dimitriadis’ ability to maintain the balance between frustrated objections to these expectations and a sense of genuine affection for the family members extending these expectations, reflecting the truth behind the oftentimes cultural irreconcilabilities of older, traditional migrant parents with their children.
The heightened delivery of the bulk of poetic text in the production works well when offset by sections that are delivered frankly and at a punchy pace. Where KORALY stumbles is when the poetic delivery begins to overwhelm the poetry itself, causing the production to slack in its pace and ability to land its emotional punches. The too-close mirroring of the profundity in the poetry and its style of delivery—a deliberate steadiness that became often became laboured—meant that the tone of the show stayed very similar throughout the entire performance. This made it difficult for the production to avoid taking on a boggy weightiness; the weight behind the language could have been better served by a lighter performative touch that allowed the audience to do more of the emotional, imaginative work of processing the content themselves.
The show was further slowed down by an abundance of full blackouts between short scenes which were generally unwarranted and only served to break up the momentum of the production and contributed to a general discontinuity of full audience engagement. The jerkiness of the full blackouts became more noticeable towards the end of the production: while the show strove to bring its narrative strands and thematic concerns together, the continued partitioning of each scene through distinctively different sound and lighting states heightened the already difficult job of being able to satisfyingly draw all these strands together.
While KORALY does not manage to resolve all the technical and structural intricacies it sets up for itself, the production honestly delivers a rigorous interrogation of its key concerns. The strong, positive audience reception to moments such as the food-sharing interaction—which simultaneously brought up the reality of shared food as affectionate and effective cultural glue and as a gateway into the frustrations underlying those interpersonal encounters—highlights the hunger in audiences to encounter theatre that relevantly and fearlessly takes on investigating the fractures in cultural identity and belonging through this close personal lens.