The Ultimate Lesbian Double Feature at the Old Fitz, written by emerging playwright Zoe Brinnand and directed by Lucy Hotchin, takes a look at lesbians over time and examines the societal constraints they have suffered from a generally light-hearted angle.
The first play, Love in the Time of Sexting, explores the love letters, poems and writings of historical lesbian figures such as Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson. However, as the name suggests, in this production they communicate through sexting. Through a series of comic vignettes, featuring couples ranging from Sappho and a lover, to Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi, all texting, the significance of historical lesbian literature and lesbians in the public eye is on display. However, the writing was shaky and full more of bravado than a developed narrative. Jokes often fell flat and the air in the room was awkward. At the commencement and conclusion of the play a voice-over announced the intended purpose of the piece: to examine love letters through sexting, whilst reiterating the need to preserve lesbian culture and history.
Whilst this message is worth being told, it wasn’t clearly portrayed throughout the play. What could have been a funny, light-hearted play with a more meaningful message was just uncomfortable, and then too prescriptive during the final voiced coda.
The Party, the second play on the bill, is a parody of 1950s instructional videos aimed at housewives to help them fulfil their duties. However, the content of this video was how to host a lesbian dinner party. As we were led through the basics (themes, food choices, games and preparing a guest list), the traditional housewife structures were turned on their heads and this piece, unlike the former, gained quite a few laughs. Not all of it was successful– some of the humour too forced and some moments too stilted – but overall this was the more enjoyable piece. Finally, the housewives gathered around for ‘meaningful chat’ about their hope for a brighter future. They discussed the realities they hoped to achieve: public recognition of their relationships, legalised marriage, openly lesbian celebrity couples, lesbian leaders and presidents. As this list goes on, we see some progress has been made from the conservative 1950s society, but it raises the question: how far have we really come? Whilst the presentation of this message is too strained, it’s an important one to discuss, particularly in the midst of the Safe Schools debates and the continued discussions regarding legalisation of equal marriage in our country.
These stories, and their messages, however light-heartedly presented, are continually relevant and need to be told. Whilst the writing was too stilted at times, it was a brave and comedic first double bill for emerging playwright Brinnand, and with more nuanced character and narrative development her future works could be very powerful.