Strangers in Between (fortyfivedownstairs) ★★★

Reviewed by
ABR Arts 29 January 2018

Strangers in Between (fortyfivedownstairs) ★★★

Reviewed by
ABR Arts 29 January 2018

Gay theatre, or at least identifiably queer theatre, has never had much of a presence in Australia; most of what we consider canonical has come from overseas. The Elizabethan stage had Marlowe’s Edward II and Shakespeare had two characters named Antonio, in Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice, who are fairly obviously queer. Since then, most quintessentially gay theatre has come from the United States. Tennessee Williams perfected the unspoken queer subtext, often tying himself in knots to speak clearly what remained unspeakable. But it took Tony Kushner to produce the first openly gay theatrical masterpiece in the two-part Angels in America (1991–92). Anyone who caught last year’s production of Angels at fortyfivedownstairs will know just how vital and electrifying the piece remains as a touchstone of gay representation on stage.

Cameron Lukey, who produced that version, returns to this space for another revival, Australian playwright Tommy Murphy’s Strangers in Between, first seen at Griffin in 2005. Murphy is best known as the adaptor of Timothy Conigrave’s memoir Holding the Man (1995), both for stage (2006) and screen (2015). Strangers in Between draws heavily on Murphy’s own experiences when he moved from a country town to the big smoke (Sydney’s King’s Cross). His main character is Shane (Will King), an impossibly innocent young gay man who has ostensibly run away from home, but manages to set himself up in an apartment and is working at the local bottle-O. On his opening shift he meets Will (Guy Simon) and Peter (Simon Burke); one is sexy and a potential partner; the other is older, and anything but.

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