Directed by Shane Bosher
Kings Cross Theatre
Kings Cross Hotel, 244-248 William Street, Potts Point
Season: 16 June – 2 July
Two straight guys dare each other to film a gay porno. Hmm, not your average play, but certainly a situation bound for devastating hilarity. Shane Bosher takes the reins on DC Moore’s play, Straight – an ironic title that is a taster of the blurring of boundaries that occurs. Rather than a commentary on sexuality, this play is more about the boxes that we use to frame sexuality – theoretically to help us to understand each person’s place and role in society, but having the detrimental effect of clouding true understanding and connection. Bosher’s play features a fine cast of four, sustaining an impenetrable focus that allows for the prevailing of glorious awkwardness and comedic gold.
To pull off DC Moore’s spitfire script, complete focus is obliged of the cast. If this is achieved, the play is able to vacillate between poignant relational drama and new heights of comedy with seamless transition. Bosher’s production achieves just that. Simon London plays Lewis, married to Morgan, who is played by Madeleine Jones. Resoundingly sensible and safe in their life decisions, the audience chuckles at their Ikea dream home and Morgan’s joggers-with-work-clothes garb. They’re by the book, and they’ve reached the point where they want to have a baby. In comes Waldorf, Lewis’ uni friend that he hasn’t seen in 7 years, played by Sean Hawkins. Open and free-spirited, Waldorf brings out a new side of Lewis that Morgan hasn’t seen before. Of course, they clash, and Waldorf’s complete lack of awareness (or perhaps just lack of care) for Morgan’s frustrations results in great audience amusement. Cue Waldorf’s friend Steph to shake things up, played by Danielle Cormack. She introduces the concept of Humpfest (click here for more NSFW details) and challenges Lewis’ masculinity and openness, leading to Lewis and Waldorf potentially filming a gay porn film together…
Shane Bosher’s last two plays that he directed, Cock (The Old Fitz) and The Pride (Darlinghurst Theatre Company), were excellent examinations of an individual confronting the reality of their sexuality, and the consequent ramifications on their relationships. Straight signals a turn for Bosher’s recent work, as we meet characters who are engaging with their relationship to sex, and how it affects the way they connect with people – this isn’t necessarily due to an altering sexuality at all. From the moment you learn about sex as a kid, you have an opinion on it. Everyone has an opinion about sex – what its purpose is, what it’s good for, as well as how it defines people and their relationships. This play boldly explores a notion of sex that is not generally endorsed in society, and forces you to question ‘sex’ as you know it.
London and Hawkins develop a really wonderful chemistry, awash with testosterone-fuelled one-upmanship, yet rooted in love. To witness each character coming to terms with his own demons is both parts sad and heartening. To examine the stigma within one’s self and grapple with one’s own pivotal life choices is deeply confronting – and yet to see the characters get to the stage where they’re able to do so, is moving. Jones also goes through this journey, but rather than experiencing it through the reigniting of a relationship, it’s through her exclusion from one. Jones is captivating to watch. Cormack goes through none such journey, instead wreaking havoc in the others’ lives – akin to calmly pulling the pin from a grenade and stepping back to watch it explode. She’s hilarious.
The actors cope well in the cosy traverse stage of the Kings Cross Theatre, with a sparsely decorated set, and remaining on stage for the majority of the performance. In the first act, the actors sit on seats next to the stage, in plain sight, standing only to enter the performance space in character. When a character leaves the room, they sit down. I thought this was an effective solution to perform a naturalistic text without the luxury of a naturalistic setting. The audience knew exactly what was happening when a character left and entered the stage, able to imagine what they were doing ‘offstage’.
There’s something very special that happens when artists make bold choices to tell bold stories. This is exciting theatre, if not a little confronting for some audience members I would imagine. It’s scary when people push boundaries and force you to consider the grounds for ideas that are resolutely fixed in our minds. Bosher strikes gold yet again with this play, with an impeccable ensemble of artists.