Review Scene: ‘This Is Personal’ Mary Coustas, Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne, 28th June 2023  

Mary Coustas - This Is Personal (c) Cassandra Hannagan
Mary Coustas – This Is Personal (c) Cassandra Hannagan

Playing in her hometown, in this one-woman show, Mary Coustas sheds her bold alter ego Effie, a character she’s been famous for since the late 80’s and instead appears as herself.  Through a series of highly entertaining stories, we learn of the family influences in her life and life growing up as a migrant. Along the way we fall in love with a host of colorful characters and special people her life. 


At times philosophical and often pragmatic, Coustas has dug deep and shares her innermost thoughts and fears, along with some of her fondest memories, personal challenges and sources of inspiration for her work. Her stories provide insight into growing up in the migrant community, that is highly relatable to many.  Each story is interspersed with multiple, hilarious impersonations which generate almost constant laughs from a highly appreciative audience,  along with a few poignant moments that left the audience in tears. 


Using just a handful of props, Coustas delivers a show that is well-paced and executed with precision.  She switches effortlessly between characters and is also highly adept at physical humour. Coustas is confident and self-aware and comes across as extremely genuine in her storytelling. 


Mary Coustas – This Is Personal (c) Cassandra Hannagan

We hear about the many experiences that lead to the creation of the character Effie, and see an occasional glimpse of the character throughout the performance.  We also learn of the profound influence her father had in her life and of the heartbreak caused by his loss when she was just 23 years old.  Always a great supporter of hers, he showed great foresight when he told her ‘Your need to tell your story, our stories’. All at a time when there was a distinct lack of diversity on Australian television.  


There’s an overarching theme of what shapes us, makes us resilient and what we choose to leave behind.  She touches on the different challenges members of her migrant family faced, from her brother holding the responsibility of family interpreter from a young age, to her mother being unable to complete her education, to broader themes such as the reoccurring cycle of bullying that still exists for children today. All of which the audience can relate back to their own lived experience.   


It was an absolute pleasure to get to know Mary Coustas better, laugh, cry and share in her generosity of spirit.   

Catch Mary Coustas @ The Playhouse until 2nd July