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Exploring Offence and Political Correctness In The Homosexuals, Or Faggots

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Exploring Offence and Political Correctness In The Homosexuals, Or Faggots Image © Brett Boardman
Gay newlyweds Warren and Kim live a luxurious life in their gorgeous apartment with their dog and a joint gym membership.

It's 2017 though, and if you offend the wrong person, don't expect to wake up the next day. Kim is caught wearing a questionable costume for Mardi Gras, and a hilarious discussion begins about what's PC and what's not.

The show's playwright Declan Greene talks about where the inspiration behind the show came from, and the challenge of portraying and communicating the many clashing opinions of 2017.

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Image © Brett Boardman

The use of 'faggot' is still controversial. Why do you think this is so?
Well, ‘faggot’ is obviously a slur! There’s been a process of reclaiming it within the gay community – my friends and I call each other faggots as a term of endearment all the time. But if I get called a faggot while holding my boyfriend’s hand in public it still hurts like hell. It’s all about context.

Would you describe the play as a comedy?
Definitely! The play is an attempt to write a contemporary version of a farce – that very classic, creaky type of stage comedy with mistaken identities and ludicrous dress-ups and people running in and out of slamming doors and lots of slapstick...! When I was writing it I learned early on that it’s not such an easy undertaking, because most of those old plays were written at a time of moral conservatism – so most of the characters are all trying to cheat on their partners while also maintaining their standing in society. But in Sydney 2017, people are a lot more relaxed about matters of sexuality, so those stakes are harder to generate. That’s why I ended up setting it in the left-leaning LGBTIQA+ bubble – where a lot of people are terrified of offending one another, while also wanting to hold on to their freedom of speech.

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Image © Brett Boardman

What do you think are the main issues facing the LGBTIQA+ population?
It depends on who you ask. I suppose most people would imagine marriage equality is the biggest issue facing the LGBTIQA+ community, based on the amount of publicity it’s received and the volume at which its being shouted about. But I kind of resent the amount of oxygen that issue sucks up – because it’s easy to conflate marriage with the idea of ‘respectability’; that homos are just trying to replicate hetero culture, and throwing away all the great queer stuff that makes the LQBTIQA+ community so exciting. I'd love it if the bill could just be passed ASAP so we could move past it and get on to more important business.

Where did the idea for this show come from?
I got the idea while reading a gay news website – like NewNowNext or Gaily Grind or something – and seeing an article about a Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume that had recently been released. This was pretty close to Caitlyn first coming out on the cover of Vanity Fair – before all the Republican hoo-ha that got her exiled to the island of ‘Problematic Person’. So she was still being held up as a very brave popular hero at this point – but this article was taking great glee in mocking her, which I thought raised a bunch of questions about the social power gay men currently hold, and the responsibilities to the rest of our wider community that come with this.

What is the cast dynamic like?
The cast are a really fascinating bunch! On one hand you have Simon Burke and Genevieve Lemon, who are both ordained national treasures of the Australian stage. On the other hand you have Mama Alto – a genderqueer cabaret artist and activist – who has less theatre experience, but is a stunning performer in her own right, and brings a wealth of political knowledge and lived experience to this play which is completely invaluable.

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Image © Brett Boardman

It's described as a play that satirises both right and left wing politics. Was it difficult for the everyone involved to avoid their own politics in putting this play together?
It’s been wonderfully complex. The creative team and cast are majority queer or gay or lesbian or bi or gender non-conforming, so just about every person working on the show has both a political and personal stake in it. But of course that doesn’t mean we all share identical ideas at all. It’s like a little microcosm of the LGBTIQA+ community, and differences of opinion invariably arise, even when it comes to some of the material I’ve written in the script. But everyone has been incredibly generous and patient, and we’ve had some fantastic conversations and debates in the process of making the play, which has made me a lot more optimistic about the capacity of people to reach points of understanding given the incredibly partisan state of our public discourse right now.

Tell us more about the characters Warren and Kim?
They’re a wealthy white homosexual ‘married’ couple who’ve recently bought a tiny, million-dollar shoebox apartment in Potts Point. The play is set on the night of Mardi Gras, and Warren is midway through dressing up for a ‘Politically Incorrect’ themed party in a highly offensive costume, when a massively influential radical queer activist turns up at the apartment. So a series of lies are told, which quickly accumulate and spiral out of control, as the rules of farce will dictate...

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Image © Brett Boardman

You have dabbled in many controversial works before. Is there a wave of conservatism sweeping the country that needs to be challenged?
There is. But it’s a conservatism on both the Left and Right – this idiotic stalemate where both parties exist in a state of constant offence and outrage at everything the other side says, while also accusing each other of being too thin-skinned. It drives me crazy.

As a playwright, what are you main intentions for this production?
I always try to avoid dictating or preaching to the audience, because really, what the fuck do I know? So my intentions are always about using drama or comedy to ask difficult questions – preferably ones I don’t know the answer to, or ones that don’t even have answers.

What can viewers expect when they come to see the play?
Laughter, hopefully! And a good chat (or argument) in the foyer afterwards.

'The Homosexuals, Or Faggots' plays Griffin Theatre from 17 March-29 April.

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