Written and performed by Lorna V
Aliki Mbakoyianni is the most distinguished Greek name you have never heard of until now. This dance guru, born in Argentina of Greek descent, is the patron of the charity Dancing for Peace in Cyprus, has been honoured by the Greek and Argentine governments – and is the fictional creation of Lorna Eleonora Vassiliades, known professionally as journalist, writer, author and most recently performer, Lorna V.
Lorna has slowly been developing Aliki Mbaboyianni since September 2014, performing at scratch nights and festivals in and out of London. Her first full length comedy show Bailamas Opa! with dance guru to the stars Aliki Mbakoyianni previews on April 25 and 26 at the Blue Elephant in South London’s Camberwell, or to quote Lorna’s alter ego Aliki, ‘Canbewell’.
By her own admission, Aliki is the polar opposite of bookish, quiet, considered Lorna. Aliki is an outrageously outspoken extrovert who demands constant attention, has been married several times, and is a supremely confident speaker of languages, despite her heavy pronunciation and mashed up self-made words. Whilst Lorna had to conquer her fear of learning to dance and has persevered for many years, Aliki is a natural who hails from a Greek dynasty of musicians and dancers emigrating to Argentina.
What Lorna (photo below) didn’t expect in this unexpected venture into performing/acting was that this would take her back to her childhood when she began writing little plays and performing with her school friends at Chrysi Akti school, in Varosha, Famagusta. Lorna was born in London and lived in Cyprus as a child for four years until the invasion when she and her parents had to flee Famagusta. They returned to the UK refugees.
“If the war hadn’t happened, my life would have taken an entirely different direction, I’m sure,” says Lorna. “Just before the invasion, I wrote a play in Greek about a fish which I planned to send to CYBC. I still wonder if someday I’ll go back and find that envelope with the play. My childhood dream of acting vanished with war.”
Lorna studied at the London School of Economics, became a trainee journalist on a financial publication and then wrote prolifically for national newspapers and magazines. Whilst working at Time Out magazine as the lifestyle editor, she realised she had a calling to write for theatre. She has been shortlisted for the Verity Bargate award and was invited to be part of the Soho Theatre’s One Year Attachment Programme.
A woman of many dreams, her personal and professional interest as a journalist in self-development and psychology led to her recently writing three books for the Psychologies brand, published by Wiley: Real Confidence, Real Ambition and Real Calm.
So how did acting come about? “When the offer came to me to write and perform my work, initially I kept saying no. I had by this stage for fun done some work as a background artiste (extra) and a director friend gave me a cameo part in an online sitcom. Destiny had already given me a nudge but I wasn’t paying attention. Suddenly I realised being invited to write and perform my work by a highly respected arts journalist turned festival curator, Donald Hutera was an incredible opportunity. There was a Greek connection too as Giant Olive Theatre run by British Greek Cypriot George Sallis was giving Donald a platform and support.”
Lorna began to write and perform different female characters, exploring their emotional journeys against the backdrop of her hobby Argentine tango. Donald Hutera became the godfather of the character Aliki, whilst Lorna struggled to give birth to a middle aged dance teacher.
“I wasn’t confident about embodying an Argentine teacher and considered creating a Greek-Argentine but was totally blocked. Whilst describing Greece’s first and foremost diva actress Aliki Vouyiouklaki to Donald and his partner, there was the name for the character I was trying to create. Shortly after I saw an outfit in a Portuguese shop and had a vision. I tried it on and became Aliki. When Donald saw this first costume, he instantly saw Aliki too.”
To embody the character, Lorna developed a Greek-Argentine accent and way of speaking for the character. Whilst developing and testing the Aliki at festivals many audience members and even reviewers have often not realised Aliki is a character. Aliki is fiercely proud of her Greek heritage and Lorna the writer has enormous fun with Aliki’s historical claims, deftly mixing real history with fictional.
Directing the full length show is award winning film maker and theatre director Athena Mandis who cast Lorna in her short film (co-written and co-directed with Dino Jacovides) Southgate to Brighton, a popular success last year at the Cyprus Short Film Day in London. “Lorna and I have been developing a great creative working relationship. Bailamos Opa! explores so many of themes present in my work, so it’s very exciting to direct her first full length solo show.”
Bailamos Opa! With Dance Guru to the Stars Aliki Mbakoyianni will play at Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell on Wednesday 25 April and Thursday 26 April at 8pm.
Ticket prices: £10.00 / £8.50 (concessions) / £7.50 (Southwark residents) available online at
Online booking incurs 10% booking fee; To avoid this fee, please ring the box office on 020 7701 0100.