Ilbijerri Theatre and Jacob Boehme’s much-lauded show Blood on the Dance Floor, directed by Isaac Drandic, mashes dance, story-telling and video, using the metaphor of blood to reference both HIV infected blood and indigenous blood. The stand-out for me here is the dance element, choreographed by Mariaa Randall with a sublime eloquence. Beautifully matched with sound (by James Henry), the choreography expresses the weight of ancient traditions and of one individual’s vulnerability. Videography (by Keith Deverell) provides a backdrop of extreme close-ups of fa man's face and body and a (sadly unoriginal) montage of blood cells coursing.
But being gay isn’t intrinsically interesting. Nor even is being gay, blak and HIV pos. There’s so much I was curious about but Boehme tends to glide across the truths of his life. Blood on the Dance Floor references many gay clichés, beginning with the cheeky drag character Boehme uses to open the show. Boehme, a warm and loveable natural performer, talks of the delicate to-ings and fro-ings of a new relationship, but it’s one where attraction seems to be about a list of material, aspirational and external attributes, where it might possibly matter that one buys one’s laundry detergent at Aldi’s or watches Roseanne. Do you freally all in love with someone because they’re a skilled cook or have a particular taste in music? At times the spoken element of this show was more like stand-up, and sometimes a glib kind of cabaret.
We’ve heard many stories of life with HIV over the last 30 years and this one contains some powerful moments but doesn't add much to our understanding. Boehme (who has been HIV since the mid-90s) talks about the community of ‘butt-chasers’ (men who deliberately seek HIV infection) and of judgment and stigma surrounding HIV that exists within segments of the gay community; what he doesn’t tell us is what was going on for him at the moment he took that risk. That would be truly revealing and deeply interesting, more so than stories of fucking on beaches.
The spoken element of the show also includes the tragedy of a gay man rejected by his family when he tells them he's HIV positive, and an especially lovely portrayal of Boehme’s understanding dad, but often these vignettes raise questions that remain unanswered. Why did Boehme not know his grandmother when he saw her? I wanted that story. Boehme is a man who’s indigenous (Narangga and Kauna, South Australia) but appears white – now here must be a set of fascinating experiences and perspectives, more interesting (to me, at least) than the campy gay stuff. For all this though, Blood on the Dance Floor is a beautiful show and gives voice to experiences from communities we want to hear more about.
Ilbijerri Theatre Company & Jacob Boehme present
BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR
by Jacob Boehme
Director Isaac Drandic
Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall | 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Dates: 1 – 5 June 2016
Tickets: $35 – $25
Bookings: 03 9322 3720