A new queer stage show tackling Queensland’s so-called ‘gay panic’ defence is coming to Brisbane’s Anywhere Festival this Thursday.
The controversial legal defence allows people accused of murder to claim they were provoked to kill by an unwanted homosexual advance, and argue the charge down to manslaughter. A petition to abolish the defence started by Maryborough priest Father Paul Kelly has attracted over 241,000 signatures.
Now the new show, written and directed by Brisbane artist Coleman Grehan and performed at this month’s Anywhere Festival, will use the defence to explore homophobia and masculinity in Australian culture.
The show has been in the works for three years, after Coleman first stumbled on Father Kelly’s petition. It takes place in a bedroom with interactions between two boys, one gay and one straight.
“I had to ask why the defence still exists when we seemingly live in a more harmonious time. In a masculine Australian culture, are gay men understood as intrinsically effeminate – and does their sexual advance question the masculinity of others?” Coleman said.
“I wanted to create a show that would highlight a contemporary homophobia: one where you can engage in all the anal intercourse you want, just make sure you’re not too camp about it… because boys were meant to act like boys.”
The show is part installation and part promenade theatre, with the bedroom set filled with props the audience can read and interact with as the actors perform around them.
“Having proximity with the actors makes these characters real. Instead of watching the show in proscenium as if its a live screen TV, being among the actors instills the idea that these stereotypes and situations are much closer than we think,” Coleman explained.
“These events could happen anytime and we need to be talking about it.”
Now in its fifth year, the Anywhere Festival transforms various locations around Brisbane city into stages for live theatre, music, dance, comedy, cabaret, poetry and more.
The Boy With The Rainbow Umbrella opens Thursday May 5 at The Shack at 19 Heath Street in East Brisbane. For tickets and to see the Anywhere Festival’s lineup, visit AnywhereFest.com.au.