By Rosie Niven
94 Characters, 29 Short Plays, 12 actors… 37 Ways to Say “I’m Gay”.
This is the premise for Wayne Tunks’ most recent play at Limelight Theatre, coming to Sydney after runs in both the Melbourne and Queensland festival circuits. 37 Way to Say I’m Gay presents the audience with stories of coming out and coming to terms with ourselves, reminding us of this universal experience as we explore queer relationships from the stone age to the space age, from America to Australia, from our living rooms to our streets. As part of the Mardi Gras Festival this year, the play celebrates gay identities and gay relationships, taking us through the LGBT narrative of love and loss. We see young boys growing into themselves and becoming proud gay men, but then we lose those boys to AIDS. We lose other boys to suicide, and watch others get attacked, but throughout all this Tunks reminds us that there is hope, wrapping up his plot with a future filled with acceptance.
While the universality of the queer experience was communicated honestly and openly, it was also used as a blanket image of what Tunks seems to believe a gay person should be: predominantly white, and male. Women served little purpose in this production except as plot devices or horrific obstacles that stood in the way of true love between two men. The only scene where a woman’s sexual identity was touched on was fleeting and shallow. The lack of diversity in these queer stories felt out of place in 2019, and left me wanting more.
The intention of each scene is clear, and most punchlines are landed, resulting in raucous laughter from the audience. What was missing for me was the sharpness a skit show requires, which was affected by everything from the slow delivery of lines to the late lighting cues at the end of scenes, where actors had to stand frozen after their punchline and wait for the lights to fade. Perhaps this could have been avoided if outside eyes had been brought in to assist on the production as no doubt, with Director Wayne Tunks being present on stage as well, his leadership of the show was impacted.
37 Ways To Say I’m Gay gives us many important stories of what it means to be a gay man, and this cannot be discredited - even in 2019 there is still hatred, and there is still bigotry to be addressed, and the queer community are constantly impacted by this. The play seems to serve as performative catharsis for both the writer and many of the actors. My only hope is that this catharsis can be shared with the wider queer community, and that others coming to see the show would feel their coming out stories and vast spectrum of queer identities reflected too.
Photo Credit: Clare Hawley
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.