15/09/2015 - 19/09/2015
DOCUMENTARY CAPTURES NATION’S LGBT STORIES
New theatre production Scene takes an unusual approach to sharing stories from New Zealand’s LGBT/Queer/Gay community. Over six months, three local queer theatre makers conducted interviews in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to document how life differs for one of our most marginalised but vibrant communities.
“It is an opportunity for us to share our stories. Theatre gives an engaging human aspect to documentary that you simply can’t achieve in film,” says Jess Green, the show’s director. Using a technique pioneered through the University of Otago, the actors listen to MP3 players on stage and perform the interviews, word-for-word, in time with the original audio.
The focus of Scene is as broad as the community itself. People interviewed include early gay liberation veterans such as Georgina Beyer through to young queer youth workers like Tabby Besley, whose charity was recently acknowledged by the Queen. “The goal, is visibility,” says Green, “to include gender and sexually diverse stories which are just as important as stories about cis and straight people.”
Kerry Lane, a young student interviewed for the show, sums the documentary’s spirit perfectly: “Real people can often be the only chance you get to see a story that doesn’t live in tragedy. It’s so incredibly valuable for people to see that’s possible. That kind of thing literally saves lives.”
$10 Student Night Wednesday 16 September, arrive at the Box Office with your Student ID or email email@example.com to book your ticket!
Show duration is approximately 90 minutes.
Scene takes place in The Propeller Stage at BATS Theatre.
Ticket Prices: Full $16.00 | Concession $13.00 | Group 6+ $12.00
Performances: Wed 16 Sep – Sat 19 Sep, 7:30pm
Alayne Dick as Jennifer and Toni
Alex Rabina as Adrian and Chris
Ashley Holden as Georgina and Morgan
Keagan Fransch as Kiran, Morrigan and Tabby
Kelly Moen as Bruce and Gabriel
Oliver Probert as Kerry and Shane
Verbatim , Theatre ,
Objective observation still enlightens
Review by John Smythe 16th Sep 2015
The verbatim method is a highly effective way of achieving documentary theatre with minimal imposition or intervention from writers, directors or even actors. Obviously the editing and structuring of recorded interviews and their recreation by actors in live performance do add other ‘voices’ to the raw material. But when it’s done well the focus is on the people whose stories are being channelled by the actors, exactly as they told them in recorded interviews.
Of course the longer a show is the more important structure becomes. Scene – ‘a documentary on LGBT/Queer New Zealanders’ – takes 90 minutes and with five actors channelling 13 people, often in very short grabs, there is little sense the component parts are building something that becomes more than their sum. Elements can be compared and contrasted but somehow the whole lacks cohesion.
That said, it is quite magical in its own way to observing the actors – Alayne Dick, Alex Rabina, Ashley Holden, Keagan Fransch, Kelly Moen, Oliver Probert – transform so subtly as they inhabit, or become ‘possessed’ by, the very different roles they play. Not that they impersonate them as such, if Holden’s Georgina Beyer is anything to go by; it’s more a question of capturing an essence of being. Although the MP3 players they use to channel the voices are visible, there is no sense they are parroting someone else.
The snippets are grouped under ‘Coming Out’. ‘Professional Gays’, ‘Social Changes’, ‘Family’, ‘Transitioning’, ‘Misrepresentation’, ‘Things We Still Need’, which does suggest attention has been paid to order and structure.
First asked how they identify themselves by gender and sexuality, the answers include queer/femme; trans man/pan-sexual; transsexual woman; transsexual man; asexual aromantic; gay man; a 72 year-old lesbian whose experience is very different from a younger woman who describes herself as “a woman who is lesbian and queer as fuck” …
The range of people we gradually get to know is fascinating, their differing viewpoints generate a degree of dramatic energy, and their ages and locations add historical and geographical dimensions to what is revealed. But no sooner have we tuned into someone and some aspect of their story than we are on to someone and something else, so what could generate engagement through empathy becomes limited to objective observation. (Unlike, for example, the Bare Hunt Collective’s Munted, which set the bar high for verbatim theatre about life-changing experiences.)
Initially the ground being covered seems very well-trodden. While LGBT/Queer people would certainly be pleased to witness their stories being told, I’m thinking the best audience for Scene would be those who are not in the scene but want or need to understand it, so they can relate better to family members, friends, acquaintances, their community in general and the wider world.
Then it becomes apparent there is much more to the scene, or there are many more scenes, than most people realise. Even radical LGBT/Queer activists – who know the difference between bisexual and polysexual and would find the term ‘Tumblr queer’ self-explanatory – have to ask what a Grey Ace is. (Also known as Grey A, this is a person who usually identifies as asexual but sometimes feels sexually attracted to someone.)
Although it is common parlance in some quarters, how many people don’t know what cisgender (aka cissexual, cis male, cis female, cis person or cis) means? It’s tempting to suggest the printed Scene programme could include a glossary of all the terms that pop up in the interviews without being explained. On the other hand it adds to the experience when we gather in the BATS bar afterwards and Google in clusters while talking about the show. If that means being prepared to admit you don’t know, don’t worry: this should be a safe way to find out. After all, the quest to feel safe in a diverse world is a big part of what this show is about.
If you value enlightening theatre, even if you think you already know all there is to know about the LGBT/Queer world, see Scene. How else will we know what is still needed and be part of the solution?
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