Sven Swenson’s second La Boite Indie production for the season, Dangerfield Park (the companion piece to Angel Gear) is a masterpiece of witty repartee with deep and important reflections on the current well-being of our society.
Although strikingly different stories, there are clever underlying links between the two plays. Both centre around a patriarchal figure who leads his young charges in life for the better (Dangerfield) or the worse (Angel Gear). The distinction here is that the violent, psychotic edge of Angel Gear is considered to represent a normal, acceptable man (normal for the world he inhabits at least) – while Sholto, the quick-witted, charming old fag of Dangerfield Park, a mentor that shelters and protects his young followers rather than preys on them, is cried down as a bash-worthy pervert in our morally twisted community.
Dangerfield Park introduces us to six, diverse gay men facing the fall-out of the so-called legal defense of ‘gay panic’. Otis (Brian Lucas) – a kind, beat-addled friend of the group, is bashed and subsequently dies from his injuries when he is propositioned by the wrong kind of guy. Through-out the play the group of friends must adapt to a new way of life; one in which they must sacrifice their privacy (already earned once on the backs of Sholto’s generation) to take to the streets and fight for their basic human rights – again.
This extremely well written story strikes at the heart of contemporary Australian life as we watch countries around the world vote in favour of gay marriage. Disappointed by our own ideology-tainted politicians and their continued ‘protection of the sanctity of marriage’, renewed attacks on alternative lifestyles are becoming acceptable once more and without the basic safety net of a compassionate legal system – where does that leave us?
But Swenson also gives voice to a new danger – a fracture that has appeared with-in the queer community. Perry (Zachary Boulton), a close friend of Otis, is exposed as a victim-blamer. Having settled into a pre-Newman, hetero-normative life with partner and ‘civil-union-to-be husband’ Marc (Christos Mourtzakis), he has trouble coming to terms with Otis’ death on a number of levels. Perry’s feelings of hatred spill over to his friend because of his continued beat-going ways – he was asking for it after all wasn’t he? “If he wasn’t in Dangerfield Park in the first place…..”
Perry ’s belief that the basic gay freedoms enjoyed by queers today means that beats and promiscuity should be a thing of the past is in stark conflict with the truth that there always will be non-conformists. Perry is the anguished born-again convert with a message to preach to his brethren.
Boulton’s performance as the conflicted Perry is strong and honest, as are all of the players in this production. Swenson’s inspiring about-face between two lead characters in two high calibre plays – from Edge to Sholto – is utterly impressive. Our first instinct as the larger-than-life Queen burst onto the stage delivering his Coward-esque wit was to rub our eyes and whisper “is that really him?”
At three and a bit hours Dangerfield Park is a very long play and some stumbling over lines possibly alludes to the marathon effort that these actors are enduring. Considering some appear in both productions – that is over five hours of material – they are to be admired for the quality of their courageous performances.
Although the full three hours of Dangerfield Park are engaging and riveting, I suspect the sheer length may be off-putting to potential audiences. Perhaps an earlier start or two intermissions would go a long way to easing audience fatigue.
See the La Boite website for more details about this exceptional work from Pentimento Productions and La Boite Indie.