Alan held his lover as the virus finished its work, and the last breath evaporated. Alan has grieved for six months, going nowhere, doing nothing but dwell on pain and memories. His group of friends were there throughout the suffering, farewelling one of their close party, and they are now determined to drag Alan away from his grieving. He doesn’t want to go.
Out Cast Theatre’s latest offering melds hilarity with anguish. You think, perhaps they shouldn’t be so funny under the shadow of a loved one’s death. Then you realise that their acidic humour is their reaction to pain, an attempt to freeze it. This group of gay men all share sexual histories, and they also negotiate their relationships with amusing and nasty verbal banter.
The performance centres on Alan’s living room, and the stories and relations of these friends. ‘Queens’ run riot, the actors indulging in flamboyancy but attuning it to their characters effectively. Each character drives the show – no one is peripheral, needless. You wonder how they found each other, what holds them together, and we eventually discover they simply have no one else. Steven Dawson’s writing is fabulous, and the actors’ delivery is machine gunfire.
Brett Whittingham plays Alan, the most emotionally distraught and also truthful character. Whittingham eases into himself, losing the edge of melodrama of which there is a hint at the beginning, to embrace his character’s relations with his friends from the distant place of grieving.
The matriarch of the group, Phillip, is the first to arrive, startling Alan out of a reverie with his lost lover. Played by Adam Ford, Phillip encompasses instincts to emotionally aid his loved ones alongside a vigorous theatricality and occasional harshness, moving easily between these aspects of his personality.
While caricatures form at times, most cast members find what is deeper within their characters. Lee Threadgold performs his leather clad interior-design-mad giant of a character whilst artfully negotiating between masculinity and femininity. Nick Wyatt, as the young hunk Colin, finds a quietness and intensity in this character which contrasts well to the excessiveness of others.
The vicious interactions between these men emphasise the drama and bitchiness which some friendship groups thrive on. The play explores how dislike of oneself is projected onto the weaker individuals around, and how status is sought and lost.
The Art of Being Still, the art of existing beyond devastation, is the art of all these characters. Each has lost a friend, some a lover, and cling to whatever keeps them going. Humour is the mask protecting the characters from vulnerability, hiding the pain of loss and self-awareness.
Out Cast Theatre presents
The Art Of Being Still: Part One
by Steven Dawson
Venue: Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre | Cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rds Brunswick
Dates: June 30 - July 17, 2010
Times: Tues-Sat 8pm
Tickets: $30 Full, $20 Concession
Bookings: 9308 4574