Blasting Apart the Nuclear Family: Review of Darlinghurst Theatre’s Gaybies
The Mardi Gras is upon us once again; it is a time when local theatres give themselves over to queer stories and Dean Bryant’s Gaybies (2013) represents a slightly different, though no less important slant on the subject. This is a play about the children who grew up in gay families, and how that experience has shaped them as people. This is Mardi Gras with only the figurative glitz and glam.
Bryant’s piece is the culmination of a series of interviews with the children of gay parents, and there’s a wide cross section of ages, with people ranging from 4 to 40. For the astute reader this will now be starting to sound suspiciously like verbatim theatre – and it is. While it is impossible to fault this piece for its performances, its set design, or its lighting, and while many of the characters and their stories are by turn interesting, pertinent and moving, Gaybies is still a typical example of how challenging verbatim theatre can be. The piece more or less performs like straight transcripts of Bryant’s interviews, which means that the play is without any of the traditional narrative or theatrical structures; for the most part the actors don’t even interact with one another. Certainly, it is pertinent, and at times laugh out loud hilarious, though it would not be truthful to say that threat of boredom doesn’t creep in, for the simple reason that we crave the traditional structures of storytelling, which verbatim theatre, in this form, can’t give.
Nevertheless, Gaybies still delivers what it bills: a funny and moving piece of real-life theatre, offering insight into the family lives of those with two mums, two dads, or a combination. The stories give insight into gays as parents, and unsurprisingly, they just sound like ‘normal’ people (whatever that means). To be sure, it is sometimes difficult for those outside the Sydney Gay and Lesbian scene to fully appreciate scripts of this kind, just as verbatim theatre often runs the risk of becoming repetitive. But to their credit the production mostly manages to sustain its audience over the hour and a half running time, though largely reliant on solid performances to bring the characters to life. Fortunately the cast is talented across the board, featuring Cooper George Amai, Rhys Keir, Steve Le Marquand, Zindzi Okenyo, Olivia Rose, Georgia Scott and Sheridan Harbridge. Harbridge especially has great presence and comedic timing, with a terrifically large voice to boot.
Gaybies still represents an important aspect of the conversation surrounding gay rights and the issue of non-traditional families as care-givers. With humour, honesty and wisdom, the bottom line for this play is that love is love. It doesn’t matter from whom you receive it. It only matters that you receive it.
Gaybies is playing at the Eternity Playhouse until the 8th of March. For more information see: http://www.darlinghursttheatre.com/whats-on/gaybies