By: Stephanie Jade
Who would’ve thought a handmade rug could transport us to a rural village in Greece? Thomas Papathanassiou does just that. His astounding one man show, Looming the Memory, is a memoir that draws on the theme of identity, family, heritage, and home.
The stage is bare save for a rug rolled on the floor. The play opens with childhood memories: an old woman at her loom, weaving strips of garment of a deceased relative – weaving memories. As the play unfolds and the rug unrolls, snippets of memories are brought to life, one interwoven with the other.
Thomas Papathanassiou’s parents migrated from Greece to Australia, leaving all their relatives behind. Papathanassiou spent part of his childhood in Greece and he tries to explore his own family history through stories told by relatives and neighbours during his visits to Greece many years later. He discovers untold grudges, connections, and stories through his conversations with people from his childhood. It’s his struggle to understand where he actually belongs, as with many migrant children who never feel they fully belong to one place.
Papathanassiou plays eighteen characters that makes up episodes of the story, including grandmothers, uncles, neighbors, himself and a chicken, very effectively – even when they are conversing between themselves. With just the slightest change in posture or expression we can easily identify the character he’s become. The transition between characters are done seamlessly, making it look almost effortless.
With his powerful emotions and effective story-telling, we are taken through a crowded market, rows of fig trees, an old school building, just as if we are walking with the characters themselves. We can feel the festivity of a dance, the blue skies and warm sun of a Greek summer, and the commotion of a village fire.
As we leave Greece, the rug is rolled up and the characters were flashed once again in rapid succession without Papathanassiou ever losing one bit of control or intensity. The phrase uttered at the end reverberates with me: it is a difficult thing to have your heart in two places. This journey of self-discovery asks us to question ourselves how family and culture has shaped us to who we are.
Looming the Memory‘s intimate storytelling grabs the audience’s attention right from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the end.
Share with us your views on Art & The Family.This review is part of ArtZine’s Special Coverage of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. Read our reviews of the other festival performances here.