Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
February 3 – 6
Based on interviews conducted with the children of gay parents, the verbatim theatre work “Gaybies” draws on the experiences of a diverse group people, ranging in age from four to 40, with a cast of local performers and community members vibrantly adopting the personas of each.
The stage is set for a children’s birthday party, complete with cake, craft and a scattering of toys. From here, characters share their tales of teaspoons, pantyhose and dream catchers. The anecdotes are filled with humour, insight and some touching, collective ‘awww’ moments, making the show moving despite its essential lack of narrative.
From early on, the central idea is clear… that all families are different, filled with their own problems, love and funny stories. This is particularly evidenced through the standout scenes from Rebecca McInstosh and Kurt Phelan as siblings sharing story of their lesbian mother Jac. Another highlight is a segment that sees some cast members assuming the personas of young children. Not only are their takes humorous, but, to see, for example, Margi Brown Ash as fairy-winged four-year-old wannabe princess riding a tricycle about the stage is simply adorable.
With so many stories and its large cast, it can, at times, be difficult to reconcile “Gaybies” many threads, however, Director Kris Stewart ensures that audience engagement rarely lags, thanks to the incorporation of music and songs from Lizzy Moore and Artistic Director of the Australian Voices, Gordon Hamilton. Barbara Lowing, easily engages the audience at every opportunity courtesy of her natural, responsive, sensitive dialogue delivery and attuned timing. And Brisbane Festival Artistic Director David Berthold is impressive both in initial mimicry of his gruff father and later as an uncooperative child.
Given the show’s context, emerging from debate about marriage rights of same sex couples, it is packed with political commentary, perhaps excessively so given the repetition of its endorsement of gay marriage. It is probably safe to say that preaching is to the converted who can come to the conclusion alone from the tender tone and varied but similarly-themed messages of the show’s real-life stories of children from same-sex parents, surrogate mums, donor dads, co-parents and guardians.
“Gaybies” is an important piece of theatre…. proudly personal, poignant and political. Helpmann Award-winning Dean Bryant’s work presents a funny, moving and accessible piece of theatre for young people as well as adults. (Although the evening show has a 12+ recommendation due to its course language, its 4pm matinee is specifically targeted at allowing families to attend a show during MELT).