At the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, currently, is Dean Bryant’s Gaybies: a verbatim piece he has devised and also directs.
Gaybies, featuring interviews from the children of gay parents, is a pleasant meditation on the lived experiences of people who are often used as catalysts of fear in anti-gay debates, particularly in marriage and family planning ones. ‘Children need a mother and a father’, etc. ‘All the children will turn out to be gay,’ etc. ‘People might target these innocent children to advance their own political and anti-human ideals’.
The problem is, sitting in a theatre in Darlinghurst amidst the buzz of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Gaybies feels like its preaching to the proverbial choir; it feels a little unnecessary. When your audience is already on your side about not stopping gay couples from having kids, a collection of comments about how fine the kids are isn’t really emotionally resonant or dramatically effective.
There’s a lack of dramatic tension or compelling function to the piece which tends to have the after-effect of making all the words in the script blend together into a gentle murmur that doesn’t quite have the impact to stay in the memory, and verges into boredom territory. Without any conflict, dissent, or unique opinions or experiences cropping up in the transcripts, there’s little left to talk about. Maybe Bryant’s pool of interviewees was too kind, same-y or even too beautifully well-adjusted to lend some dramatic heft to the work.
Having said that, the transcripts are brought to life by a very fine group of actors, including Cooper George Amai, Sheridan Harbridge, Rhys Keir, Steve Le Marquand, Zindzi Okenyo, Olivia Rose, and Georgia Scott, and the cast as a whole weave personalities from the script that are enjoyable to listen to and to spend time with. They are a fantastic cast.
The set is as unassuming and nice and inoffensive as the rest of the work, but it’s also a bit of spirited fun that helps elevate the script by giving it a playground of sorts. Designed by Owen Phillips, it looks like a school hall, somewhere you’d see a student assembly or play. When the ensemble assumes children’s personas to tackle the cute ‘out of the mouths of babes’ section of the play, the curtains on stage part to reveal a very cute and childlike floral backdrop.
It’s a perfectly fine production, but it already feels outdated after two years in the world, and too happy, and unchallenging, to be truly interesting. Sometimes it feels like sanitised works are still the safest option when you’re presenting a queer point of view, and Gaybies is so safe that it feels sanitised.