Arriving in Adelaide as a 12-year-old boy in 2008, Philippos Ziakas, who played Yianni in the State Theatre Company production, Gods of Strangers, has made the most of every opportunity, and extra serves of tzatziki, he can.
My Adelaide with new(ish) Australian Philippos Ziakas
“I was 12 when we arrived,” says actor Philippos Ziakas. “I was told we were coming to Australia not long before and it wasn’t presented as much of a choice. It was pretty sad because all my friends were about to start new schools in mid-September and I didn’t even go to see them, I didn’t want to. I was too sad to see anyone.
“When we came to South Australia we didn’t live in Adelaide. We lived in Port Elliott. So this was a big change. I did all my high school in Victor Harbor. I stuck around doing the drama course there. At the beginning my English wasn’t very good. By doing drama, I guess I could build my confidence up.
“The thing I like about this play [The Gods of Strangers] is – in a way – it’s a lost story to my people. The Greeks in Greece don’t really know what happened to the Greeks that left. They just know they went away and 30 years later they had money.
“One of the stories I’ve discovered doing this play is about a boarding house in Adelaide. The woman who owned it – Assunta – she was a very intense woman. She was kind of like a mob boss of the time. She was respected. The story I heard about her, I’m not sure if it’s 100 per cent true, but they said that she killed her lover. She killed her lover in the street – she shot him – and she didn’t go to prison. That was like when she was in her 50s.
“I spend a lot of time around the city now – I work at Eros, the Greek restaurant on Rundle Street. So this is my part of town. It’s been there for about 21-22 years. I’m 22.
“There’s a bit of performance about working in Hospitality. You meet people, you interact all the time and stay on top of your feet. At Eros we get people like Scott Hicks come in. He directed Shine.
“Dev Patel comes in every time he’s in Adelaide. He came here when he was doing Hotel Mumbai. I remember it was about 30 minutes before my shift was gonna end, so I went up to my manager and said, ‘look – I’m going to stay here until he leaves, you don’t have to pay me. But that’s my table.’ Dev and I ended up chatting and I got a photo with him.
“I did give him a pretty good experience the first time, so perhaps that’s why he comes back. I took him through everything and showed him what was the best stuff to have and then I gave him an extra bit of tzatziki for free, which was a good move.”