Phi Theodoros, aka The Ukulele Dream Girl, is tuning up to bring her award-winning Adelaide Fringe show Love At A Distance back to Holden Street Theatres. The show was originally scheduled for July, but experienced multiple delays due to Covid. Thankfully this has done nothing to dampen Phi’s passion for storytelling and connection with her audiences.
Performing has always been part of Phi’s life, starting with her involvement with Ink Pot Arts Inc in the Adelaide Hills.
“I have always been performing, right from a very young age. My family are all very musical and my parents were involved in community theatre projects when they first got together, so I’ve always had performing arts around me. I was heavily involved in theatre at school and began doing extra drama classes from the age of 11 or 12. I began working with Ink Pot Arts Inc in the Adelaide Hills as one of their founding drama students in 2004 and am proud to still work with them today as a member of their board.”
Over the years, Phi’s shows have been recognised for their strong story-telling narrative. I was curious to find out what it is about story-telling that gives Phi the solid foundation to build shows.
“I believe that everyone has a story to tell and I love being able to provide opportunities for unique stories to be shared that may otherwise be overlooked. I love how we can learn from sharing stories and how this can build empathy and understanding.
“When I create a cabaret show I often start with stories, or at least the idea of what kinds of stories I’d like to share and why. Sometimes the stories find me (people literally offering them up) and other times I go exploring for them through research. The amazing thing about Love At A Distance is all these stories are based from real experiences that I’ve collected or my family has shared with me. It really showed me how many diverse perspectives of love there are and how rarely some of these are heard.
“Storytelling has been used since the dawn of time across all cultures to help people learn about each other and the world around us. Today we have so many exciting platforms to share stories, but I do worry the content is getting shorter and faster which means sometimes meaning and messages can get lost. This is one of the reasons I still love live theatre and cabaret – it only happens in that moment and is shared between the audience and the artist.”
Those who have been lucky enough to see Phi perform will know her for amazing hot pink hair and the branding ‘Ukulele Dream Girl’, which has become a big part of her cabaret identity.
“For my birthday at the start of 2019 my parents gave me a beautiful framed artwork. It was actually the cover page for the music to a song from 1926 with this gorgeous woman sitting on a tree branch playing the ukulele. My mum wrote in my birthday card that I was her Ukulele Dream Girl. I decided to get it tattooed on my thigh a couple months later, and soon after realised it would be the perfect stage name for my new solo cabaret work.
“I’ve created and performed in cabaret shows on and off since 2009, but 2019 was when I decided to do this solo for the first time. I wanted to create an on-stage persona that showcased the power of stories and worked to build empathy and community with her audiences. I was offered the opportunity to develop a show for a season at The Bakehouse Theatre and boom – the Ukulele Dream Girl was developed. Now she’s here armed with her ukulele and a heart filled with compassion ready to share stories and shift stigma through poetry and song.
“Fun fact – the poster for my debut Ukulele Dream Girl show, Who is the Ukulele Dream Girl at the Bakehouse Theatre, was styled on the original artwork and also shows my ‘Ukulele Dream Girl’ tattoo!”
On September 3 and 5, at Holden Street Theatre, Phi will be bringing back her critically acclaimed and award winning show Love At A Distance.
“When I first started to develop the Ukulele Dream Girl shows I had the opportunity to create a show for Feast 2019. At the time I was in two long distance relationships and the phrase ‘Love at a Distance’ kept bouncing around my mind. I realised that this wasn’t something I’d seen in a cabaret show before and decided to dig deeper and reflect on how I could explore this.
“I remember going away with my family for Mothers Day and chatting with my parents about the concept, and they were quick to share their own ideas and stories. I knew that this show needed to be more than just an exploration of my own romantic relationship(s) and so I started to research the different ways that we experience love and gathered stories that represented some of these. I researched everything from the Love Languages to Ancient Greek Philosophy, did some online training to better understand the impact of Dementia in Australia and created a poem inspired by an Ola driver and his Tinder experiences.
“It has grown into a show I am incredibly proud of, weaving together so many different experiences with poems and a mix of covers and original music. This latest season includes some new musical and other elements too, which I’m excited to offer in the amazing space at Holden Street Theatres.”
Tickets for Love At A Distance can be purchased through www.holdenstreettheatres.com
Interview by Ben Stefanoff