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Theatre Review | Gaybies

Gaybies Eternity Playhouse until March 8

by Dean Bryant

Photo by Helen White

Reviewed by Ron Hylton Lee, CSP

What would it be like to be raised in a family in which both parents are of the same gender?

How does a child feel when their traditional family is broken up because one parent has decided to move into a same-sex relationship?

Is it inevitable that the children will be gay, or at least bisexual?

How are those children viewed by society in general?

What are their reactions to society’s attitude to them?

To be honest, I’ve never asked any of those questions, but they are answered anyway in the very entertaining production of Gaybies, currently playing at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst.

The play basically wrote itself as the result of playwright/director Dean Bryant interviewing children in same-sex relationships and adults who were brought up in same-sex relationships.

The seven cast members play a variety of characters aged from five to forty in a true ensemble piece. Cooper George Amai, Sheridan Harbridge, Rhys Keir, Steve Le Marquand (great name for an actor), Zindzi Okenyo, Olivia Rose, Georgia Scott are all strong in their roles. Le Marquand plays a laconic, almost bogan type, which I didn’t expect to see in this, although when a friend came out several years ago, his teenage son took to wearing a slouch hat, blue worker singlet, camouflage pants and a work boots.

Sheridan Harbridge’s comedic timing is exquisite, right down to the sideways looks.

Expressions of vulnerability, justifications and degrees of self-consciousness are the bases for many of the numerous laughs in this ground-breaking work. Even though it’s innovative, it’s not short on stereotypes; “They met when they were working on ‘Guys and Dolls”. Then there were the sibilant voices and motorcycle-riding lesbians. They come across, not so much as clichés, but familiar references.

The play is set in what looks like a community hall with a proscenium arch stage. The “fourth wall” isn’t broken; it doesn’t exist in the first place. The players address the audience directly from the front of the formal stage, and it works so well that, during the performance that I attended, there were individual responses from audience members.

This was my first visit to the Eternity Playhouse, named in tribute to the deeply religious Arthur Stace who wrote “Eternity” in chalk on Sydney footpaths for decades. Fittingly, the Eternity Playhouse is a 127 year-old heritage building, and formerly a Baptist Tabernacle that has been superbly restored and renovated.

I expect Gaybies to be a big hit with the gay community, and my companion and I also enjoyed it immensely, so everyone will find something to like in this production. Highly recommended.

With all of the references to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, I couldn’t help but remember the words of a traditional, old-school, octogenarian, Irish builder mate of mine who said, “I have no objection to gay marriage, as long as they don’t make it compulsory”.

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