This stripped down production features just three actors and a bath, so Tommy Murphy’s script is given centre stage. With such a rudimentary background, the audience hangs on every word of the dialogue, which flows naturally and feels authentic – sometimes excruciatingly so.
Shane (Wil King) has run away from his small-town home to come to the big, terrifying and sometimes exhilarating city of Sydney. With references to buzz, nightlife and recently-closed gay nightclub The Midnight Shift, the scene, although not very old, is already nostalgic: a time when Sydney actually had life after dark. There, he meets Will (Guy Simon) – an urbane, self-assured young gay man and Peter, a fifty year-old gay man – expertly played by Simon Burke as jaded but not cynical; funny but not bitchy.
Wil King is utterly convincing as the comically naive Shane and steals the show. He’s in every scene and brings to life a coming-of-age story of this 16-year-old pretending to be 19. Murphy’s script uses humour to prevent the story from becoming saccharine. Shane’s endless questions – like where on earth do you buy coat-hangers – are well-observed and welcome light relief.
Each character has his flaws and is complex enough not to be a hero. The fallibilities of red-blooded gay men are all here, but they’re here with tenderness, care and humanity which is at first, endearing and by the end, genuinely moving. Just before the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras, it’s a timely reminder of the solidarity our community can show one another during times of family trauma, grief, loneliness and the discovery of coming out.
Anyone hoping for the depth and emotional punch of Murphy’s Holding The Man may need to alter their expectations; this story is both simpler and more nuanced, but still a must-see.
Until Mar 2. Seymour Centre, City Rd & Cleveland St, Chippendale. $35-$48+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com
Reviewed by Gary Nunn.