Mary Coustas’ Effie persona has been a part of the culture for more than 30 years at this point.
She and her character are a known quantity and beloved by many. With her new stand-up show ‘Better Out Than In’ there may be few surprises in store but like a good Galaktoboureko there is something rich and comforting in the familiar. We know Mary can surprise us with a strong performance in a dramatic role, but right now we need to laugh.
In fact, this show coming to Brisbane has already been delayed twice by the pandemic so what a relief to finally have audiences back at the Brisbane Powerhouse enjoying Effie as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival 2022.
Effie acknowledges the moment, her material is mostly centred on lockdowns, virtual meetings, social isolation, and how certain beauty appointments have been missed because of COVID.
Despite the new material and jokes which scored laughs with the audience, the formula has become familiar. Effie circles the bases here covering in-laws, cultural misunderstandings with non-ethnic friends and the quirkiness of strict parents.
There is also the trials and tribulations of how your body changes on you in middle age, and how sex changes years into a marriage. Sometimes keen minds can predict the punch line, spelling trouble, given part of what makes comedy work is the unexpected taking you by surprise.
Yet, as the show went on, a communal atmosphere began to take hold. Laughs don’t just come from the unexpected they come from the deeply familiar. Not just from pain of embarrassment but also from love for the unapologetic.
Mary as Effie taps into this, she feels close to her fans, and they feel close to her. Like a family gathering some people have been attending for a while and new faces are popping up all the time. We have all been getting through the past two years as best we can and we could all use some laughter, Effie seemed to feel the same way, making the show something special.
This connection kicked this show into another gear during the second half, when Effie just talked to the audience. The stand-up was so fast on her feet reacting to whatever was said from an audience member and spinning it into comedy gold.
This also meant the show started to go in unexpected places and get the biggest laughs of the afternoon. When you have been around for a while, people can take you for granted, but the comedian showed a singular skill in the second half, and was so funny that no one could possibly make that mistake.