As an anonymous Perth person once said, Australia hasn’t signed up for marriage equality yet because we’re still a teenager. We’re a young nation and we can’t be bothered picking our dirty clothes off the floor. Whether the analogy holds or not, the comment that spawned the title of Australia – It’s Time to Clean Your Room also exemplifies its gently scolding tone. Marriage equality is such a basic, obvious step in a long journey towards LGBTIQ rights; it’s an overwhelmingly popular, non-threatening issue most heterosexuals can get their heads around. So why hasn’t Australia committed to a referendum? What are we thinking?
The Theatre Diary is the brainchild of Gregory Ryan (“Artistic Director/ Producer/ Dramaturg/ Composer/ Creative Ensemble”). Originally a platform for local reviews, Ryan decided to transform the company from a literal theatre diary to a series of staged vox pops sourced from Perth passers-by. For AITTCYR, a number of unnamed locals were asked about same-sex spousal rights, their responses forming the bulk of the script. Ryan and co-star Connor James relay these recordings amidst calisthenics, clapping games, handstands, slow-mo segues, and the washing-up.
Of all the civil injustices Australia has swept under the rug – genocide, offshore processing, the lack of recognition for transgender, non-binary, and intersex people – marriage equality is a pretty safe issue. But I guess that’s the point – as a nation, we’re not even prepared to take on the safest issue of an increasingly thorny bunch.
While the show may be preaching to the converted, Ryan has selected some surprising and articulate subjects. There’s a man whose grandmother was an openly gay federal MP; a Christian who opposes a huge range of sexual practices on a personal level, but not a political one; the children of gay parents rallying against conservatives who presume to speak for them. There’s also dramatic readings of letters from local MPs, parodied as cockney thugs à la Rusko and a Prue-and-Trude double team.
While AITTCYR works, it lacks momentum. Anti-narrativity aside, there’s little to tie this series of vignettes together other than a shared theme. It runs on a roundabout argument/counter-argument counterpoint, but it’s missing interlocking sections, call-backs, dramatic peaks. What should be a series of poignant sketches sometimes feels like a string of comments on a Guardian article.
There’s so much potential in transforming recorded speech into theatre art, especially on a local level, and AITTCYR does have its moments of playfulness and gratifying self-recognition. But it is still very much a debut show, and I’d love to see Ryan and co. get closer to the comically mimetic documentary theatre of a show like recent NT production London Road – where the inflections and mannerisms of interviewed subjects transforms the entire performance.
‘Australia, It’s Time to Clean Your Room’ ran until February 4.
Words by Zoe Kilbourn