Effie – still up herself after all these years

Mary Coustas will be channeling her inner Effie again when she embarks on a national tour of her beloved and sassy big-haired Greek girl.

Mar 06, 2024, updated Mar 06, 2024

A woman of a certain age might be thankful to have a plastic surgeon for a husband but not Efthimia Francesca Stephanidis. Effie to you. And me. And the rest of Australia.

The stage and screen persona of comedian and author Mary Coustas, Effie is not in need of any nips or tucks.

“Shane hasn’t touched Effie … surgically,” Coustas explains adding that Effie was a virgin when she got married and then found out “what she had been missing out on all those years”.

The rest is, of course, private and is between Coustas and Effie and, no doubt, thousands of others who flock to her shows and are expected en masse when the new show Upyourseflness debuts at the Adelaide Fringe Festival on March 9 and 10 before touring to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Brisbane Comedy Festival and the Sydney Comedy Festival.

After that Effie may tour to the regions and the far-flung suburbs of the major cities … “the outer of the inner” as Coustas describes it. Coustas points out that Effie likes to get around the country playing different cities and towns and different venues, new venues whenever possible, including the Princess Theatre in Brisbane for the first time.

“I’m not monogamous when it comes to venues,” she says. “I’m only monogamous to my husband.”

Is that Coustas or Effie? Both have Greek heritage and similar views so it’s a fine line between them when we chat. I’ll take it that they are both monogamous, Effie to Shane and Mary to her husband George Betsis.

Coustas is thrilled to be back at the Adelaide Fringe.

“I did it last year and loved it,” she says. “I’ve come late to the Fringe party. It is such a joyful, civilised experience and to have friends performing in other tents nearby – I love it.”

We first met Effie decades ago on stage in Wogs Out of Work and on the small screen in Acropolis Now, from 1989 to 1992. She is the sassy, big-haired, plain-talking daughter of migrants who found a place in the hearts of Australians even when they were not quite sure what she was talking about.

As for the bold title of her new show, Upyourselfness, well, she explains that she has been up herself, in the nicest possible way, from the beginning. She even wrote a book about it, Effie’s Guide to Being Up Yourself, which was published in 2003.

“We should all be up ourselves in a healthy way,” Coustas says, “We should be able to express ourselves freely.”

Her new show will explore that idea and Effie will invite her audience to tackle the hard questions and to find a means to define ourselves through humanity’s ongoing identity crisis – the Greek way – with healthy debate.

“The Ancient Greeks have celebrated the art of arguing since the beginning of time,” Coustas points out, speaking on behalf of Effie. “And, no, I’m not talking about my mismatched dysfunctional ageing Greek parents. I’m talking about the great thinkers and debaters. Yes, I speak of Socrates, Aristotle and … Effie, the other Greek philosopher.

“We know that if there’s one thing we all have in common, it is that we’re all different. And because of that we’re going to have a difference of opinion. It’s time we got some stretch marks on our thinking, people”

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Coustas, 59, points out “there’s an ugly bitch-fight between political correctness and freedom of speech”.

“People are getting cancelled more regularly than a known carrier’s domestic flights. All of a sudden, things have gotten hairy and scary.”

But Effie is here to help and she will talk and walk us through the political and social landmines of isms – feminism, racism, sexism, wokeism, pronounism and goodlookingism – as she helps us make sense of the latest version of human evolution without losing a sense of who we are.

All this in an hour wearing a sparkly dress and big hair.

“It’s just me, a theatrical version of standup,” Coustas says. No frills, no singing and dancing, although Effie can dance, as anyone who watched her on Dancing With the Stars in 2023 will know.

Mary Coustas was the guest star dancing with choreographer Aric Yegudkin, officially speaking.

“I was Mary but on the third dance I said I need to do Effie,” Coustas says. “For a bit of theatre. So, we danced to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga and Effie was dressed in head-to-toe latex. It was Effie that got me into the finale.”

But Effie won’t be dancing in Upyourselfeness. Or will she? There’s only one away to find out.

Effie in Upyourselfeness will be in the Spiegeltent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights on March 9 and 10 as part of Adelaide Fringe. Details of other national tour dates can be found here.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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