INTERVIEW: Nicola Mantalios | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It takes a lot for anyone to completely bare their soul, and for those whose souls weigh particularly heavy, it can surely be only harder. Nicola Mantalios discovered that comedy helps when it comes to dealing with trauma and being honest about her life; her story is an incredible one, brought up in a cult, and subsequently leaving religion and losing everything in the process, it’s perhaps no surprise that laughter is a tonic for her.

In my experience I find that laughing and crying are so close to one another, it’s all emotion, it’s all human.” She says, about finding catharsis in her work. “Being British often means being stoic, reserved, polite…fuck that, pull it all back and say how you feel. It turns out we are not going to live forever and the time we have is precious, let’s be real and connect. Sing it, shout it, rhyme it, rap it!

For me jokes are my medium, I tell my darkest moments then offset them with humour, it’s like plunging to the dark depths of the earth’s core and bungeeing back up in to the sky.”

Nicola’s new show, cryptically entitled Meeting Mary, is a story she’s been refining for years now. “The story has a number of religious themes, so the metaphor of Meeting Mary is a bit of a nod towards meeting your maker, Christianity, coming face to face with your own beliefs. The story is incredibly personal to me, it’s a total bare all, honest regaling of a really raw time in my life, it is filled with heartache, impossibly hilarious situations, heaps of irony, self-discovery, philosophy, betrayal and sex. It’s a ride.”

I was silenced by that fear and completely controlled by the cult. Freedom of speech wasn’t really an everyday thing

Despite wearing her comedic self as an armour, Nicola admits that it can be exhausting when it comes to revealing so much about yourself on stage. “I’m a total extrovert, I crave attention and connection but when I get in to the depths of my trauma it uses up all of my spoons and I usually need a little bit of recovery time afterwards. But at the same time it feels freeing and honest and like I can breathe! In the past I felt like I was living in a nightmare, ruled by fear, I was silenced by that fear and completely controlled by the cult. Freedom of speech wasn’t really an everyday thing, there were consequences for a loose tongue, especially for women. I celebrate my loose tongue these days.”

Another form of armour for Nicola was the creation of her alter-ego, Zoe, who she describes as “the personification of everything you wished you had said and wanted to say but didn’t, she observes the mad social dance we all do, laughs at it then dances to her own tune.” Initially created as a way for Nicola to show off funny pictures of her dogs without having to suffer anyone else’s, she’s since become a “socially obtuse” creation decked out in a wolf fleece and mad leggings. “She is now a well-rounded, multi-layered character with depth, complexity and she is completely hilarious. Zoe occupies a part of my brain, I have to kit up and become Zoe, letting her take the reigns. When I see her on screen I don’t really see myself at all. The gritty vulnerable stuff is all me, Zoe didn’t meet Mary.”

Nicola Mantalios performs Meeting Mary at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle on Saturday 4th February.

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