Review: The Bed Party (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 12 – 16, 2019
Playwright: Sophia Davidson Gluyas
Director: Sophia Davidson Gluyas
Cast: Mathilde Anglade, Julia Billington, Brigitta Brown, Margarita Gershkovich, Suz Mawer, Alex Moulis

Theatre review
Six queer women share their “ideas, jokes and intimacies” in a display of community and solidarity in Sophia Davidson Gluyas’ The Bed Party. They congregate in a bedroom, discussing life and love, bringing each of her own perspectives and challenges, to find consensus or simply to receive validations, within the circle of their trusting group. The conventional plot plays second fiddle in this feminist approach to storytelling. The sparkling dialogue has its own distinctive rhythms. Lines are not in service of a bigger project of narrative construction, but are themselves the emphasis of the play. We listen to what the women are saying, how they say it, and distil all the meanings in between. It peaks in waves, in acknowledgement of our capacity for more than a singular momentary apex.

The show begins abruptly, unable to find a mode of naturalism that would guide us comfortably into its microcosm, but its chemistry gradually develops and we are soon completely, and wonderfully, immersed. It is a warm cast, not entirely believable as close friends, but certainly a welcoming bunch of personalities that wins us over easily. Mathilde Anglade’s cheeky charm in the role of George is a delight, as she works every comedic opportunity in the script to her advantage, and for our thorough amusement. Julia Billington delivers dramatic intensity along with ideological power, as Bri the sensible half of a partnership determined not to procreate.

As independent women, we learn to make our own rules, and we take the liberty to choose our own families. We are fearless, but we are thoughtful, always careful to design a way of living that is ethically sound, as well as being genuinely fulfilling. We question everything in front of us, and view all that had come before us with great suspicion. That which is prescribed, is rejected until proven worthy, and saying no to anyone is a breeze. Above all however, a powerful woman honours the sisterhood, and leaves no other behind.

5 Questions with Declan Greene

Declan Greene

I’ve admired Declan Greene’s writing for a while now. A distinctive sense of irreverence and adventure means that his shows are always unsettling, unpredictable and brilliantly controversial. Greene’s modernly queer perspective of our world generates a kind of outsider art that speaks to anyone who feels a little bit excluded, and I would suggest that that is all of us. For this special edition of 5 Questions, I attempt to find out how he ticks.

Suzy Wrong: I’d like to ask your age to put some context around your experience of growing up within a particular point of gay activism history, but don’t answer if you don’t wish to, ‘cos I sure as hell ain’t telling anyone my age.
I’m 32, and I grew up in rural Victoria with a lot of deep set homophobia at school, which I really internalised. Like, I was very visible screaming queen, so was called a fag a lot – and then I turned mean and vicious and started calling other kids fags – anyone who was smaller or weaker than me… So… Yeah. After high school I still really wrestled with identifying as ‘gay’ for a long time – even after I started sleeping with men – because I still thought gay culture was lame and embarrassing, all just Priscilla and Queer As Folk and fake tanner etc. Meeting Ash Flanders when I was twenty sort of changed my life, because he really showed me that being gay was this very customisable sort of thing – I could love punk and DIY and drag queens and super camp divas all at the same time, and actually there was a subset of queer culture that cherished all that dirty, faggy shit. That’s where my political identity was sort of formed.

Do you often use the terms “gay” and “queer” (or others) to describe yourself? Do they point to different parts of you, and how you relate to the world?
I have definitely used the term ‘queer’ to describe myself, but I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with it. I guess to me ‘queer’ is sort of like ‘punk’ – it’s not a fixed category, it’s a type of resistance. It exists in a state of constant flux, in opposition to whatever bad stuff is happening in the mainstream at the time. What’s queer now isn’t what was queer five years ago. And at the moment I feel like to be queer means to demolish binary thinking, and to embody fluidity, intersection, and inbetween-ness as a form of resistance. All of which I really believe in, politically speaking, but it doesn’t describe me socially… I sleep with men exclusively, and my gender is cis male… so maybe in 2017 I’m too binary to be queer? I don’t know. I guess I could say that I’m politically queer and socially gay – but I also probably wouldn’t say that, because the amount of energy consumed in that sort of elaborate navel-gazing self-identification makes me really anxious sometimes, in an era of Trump and Le Pen and Pauline Hanson!

Do you think all that insight and self-understanding is central to the purpose of your practise? What would you say the nature of your art is?
I tend to interrogate my position in relation to my subject matter quite a lot, because I’m often drawn to stories that centre on some kind of social oppression, but I exist in a space of relative privilege – as a white cis guy with a decent quality of life… so I always want to make sure that my interest in this material isn’t patronising or paternalistic or blah-blah-blah. It’s funny: I was brought up Catholic and sometimes I think that influences my work more than I’m conscious of… like, this deep sense of guilt about the stuff I’ve been lucky about. My only big struggles have been with my sexuality and money/class, so maybe my practice is about atoning for that on some level…? I don’t know, it’s complex too, because the artists and thinkers I admire are people like Jean Genet and John Waters and Joan Rivers and Camille Paglia and Nina Simone: genuine iconoclasts, who never gave a fuck what people thought of them, who never felt guilty or apologetic or beholden to the opinions of others. So that’s the push and pull in my art always: like, trying to muster up the bravery to say what I really think or feel, while trying to minimise harm to people who might be more vulnerable than me.

How do you imagine your audience? What do they look like in your ahead? Do you write for a particular type of person?
I try not to imagine the audience as one big organism, because it’s obviously full of many varied people, all coming at the work from an incredible diversity of perspectives and lived experiences. With something like The Homosexuals, Or Faggots, which is located in a very specific part of the LGBTIQA+, there’s always the temptation to take shortcuts and assume that the audience will have a common understanding of the political terrain you’re addressing – but I always try to imagine the audience is coming to these issues totally fresh, and write a fair bit of context into the play.

Are you consciously political or subversive in your process? I suppose I’m asking, if it all needs to make a point? Is it a burden?
The politics in my shows are definitely conscious, but it’s not really a burden to include them because in a lot of ways they’re actually my starting point. There has to be some sort of formal challenge, plus a line of political enquiry I’ve got a burning desire to follow – something big and furious enough that it that can sustain me over the year or more it takes to conceive and write and redraft a new play. With The Homosexuals, Or Faggots I’d had this idea in the back of my mind for a long time that I’d like to try writing a farce, but I didn’t really know why yet – there was no impetus to begin. Then I read a weird semi-mocking article about a Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume on a big gay news website – like Gaily Grind or something – which threw up a bunch of questions for me about privilege, freedom of speech, political correctness, allyship, and the responsibilities white gay cis men have to the wider LGBTIQA+ community. And the two notions just sort of clicked together: a farce set in the world of queer identity politics.

The Sydney season of Declan Greene’s The Homosexuals, Or Faggots, is presented by Griffin Theatre Co.
Dates: 17 March – 29 April, 2017
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre

5 Questions with Nat Jobe and Clare Ellen O’Connor

Nat Jobe

Nat Jobe

Clare Ellen O’Connor: When did you first know you that you wanted to be a performer?
Nat Jobe: I think I’ve known ever since I was a kid. Growing up, we used to listen to a vinyl record of Phantom of the Opera on weekends and I was obsessed with it. We also used to watch the ridiculous tv comedy Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em which I was equally as obsessed with. Both were starring Michael Crawford. I just wanted to be him! I still want to be him! Can I be him?

Other than the stage, do you have a favourite/weird place where you like to sing? eg. the car, the bathroom, a rooftop?
I definitely love singing in my car. Loudly. Like, really loudly. Road trips are dangerous, they usually result in me needing to put myself on a few days of vocal rest.

If you could give one piece of advice to your 15 year old self what would it be?
I’d tell myself to always keep that positive, optimistic attitude because that outlook on life has always led me (and still continues to lead me) along the most amazing paths. I’d also tell myself to take of that mustard turtle-neck sweater and burn it, what was I thinking?

What has been your favourite part of the rehearsal process for Summer Rain?
I loved working with our director/choreographer, Trent Kidd, on mine and Catty Hamilton’s big number “Watch The Puddles”. Trent has created a beautiful, timeless piece of musical theatre in that number and I am loving every moment of rehearsing it.

What is the biggest similarity and the biggest difference between you and your character in Summer Rain, Clarrie Nugent?
I guess our biggest similarity is that we are both cheeky larrikins; Clarrie is a very fun, optimistic and energetic guy and I really relate to that. Our biggest difference is probably that Clarrie is the town bookie and in charge of all gambling and betting within the town. I am definitely not a gambling man, I’m way too much of a tight-ass! Haha!

Clare O'Connor

Clare O’Connor

Nat Jobe: What’s your dream role in music theatre or on film?
Clare Ellen O’Connor: Oh gosh this is so hard! I love every character I get to play and I feel like there are so many unique things to find with each character. So to pick ONE… Maybe Tracey Turnblad! From the first moment I saw Hairspray I fell in love with that character. I’ve always had a special spot for her.

What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage in your career?
Easy! I was singing on a cruise ship singing and it was my moment where all of the other girls burst into a dance break and was I supposed to come pelting down the centre of the stage to hit my big note. Except I slipped over during my strut forward and hit the deck. Literally! Tried to pass it off as a sexy slide, but it wasn’t graceful enough! The audience let out a loud “Woooahhhh!” Ah well.

Do you have any interesting pre-show rituals?
Not really, I’m a bit of a keen bean. I come in super early and get my make up done so I have time to stuff it up and start again. I am hopeless at doing my stage make up! Then just warm up my voice and go through the show with my script and my notes so I know what I’m doing!

In Summer Rain, your character, Lorna, gives birth to a little girl. How do you tackle a big life moment like this in a show? And how are you going at connecting with the creepy baby doll you’re using in rehearsals?
I have gotten so attached to that little stand-in Trump baby (it has a mass of blonde hair and kind of pink skin)! Everyone else in the cast thinks it’s the creepiest thing ever but I think she’s just beautiful! I have never thought of myself as particularly maternal so I have been shocked at how comfortable this whole pregnancy/new mother thing has felt to me! Although I guess a plastic Trump Baby is different to the real thing, just a tad.

Also the ladies in the cast who have had children have been so great sharing their pregnancy stories and sharing wisdom! I have nailed the pregnancy walk thanks to those gals!

Summer Rain is a beautiful and poignant show with some amazing moments. What’s your favourite moment in the show?
My favourite moment is probably your “Dark Handsome Chappy” number! You and Catty are hilarious and Trent Kidd’s choreography is just perfect for it! I am lapping it up in rehearsals as much as I can because I’ll be offstage in that part when we’re doing it in the season!

I also really love the character development in this show. I feel they’re quite real and being Australian, they’re ones that we can all relate to. I feel Nick Enright has very much written this as a play with music.

Nat Jobe and Clare Ellen O’Connor are appearing in Summer Rain the musical.
Dates: 15 November – 19 December, 2016
Venue: New Theatre