Civil is what happens when a queer punk artist tries to become respectable by turning to raconteur Quentin Crisp.

Robert Pacitti’s shift began when his highly sexual production Geek was banned in the UK for obscenity.

It started with a female performer pulling a large Union Jack from her vagina to God Save the Queen. Nobody comments on the far more hardcore queer images later in the work, he explains.

After being advised not to exploit the ban, he decided to try a different tack in his exploration of disobedience and liberty, something a little more mannered -“ and put in a call to Crisp, whose autobiography The Naked Civil Servant he had grown up with.

The idea is if you smile and wear a tie in some situations, you could do a lot better than if you threw bricks. I spent two weeks hanging out with him, meeting other people in his life, taking photographs and came back to the UK to put together a new performance inspired by the book, he said.

The result is not quite an adaptation but the book is weather around the performance. The solo work will be performed by Richard Eton in Sydney, as Pacitti had given up the role after one last performance at Crisp’s memorial in 1999.

Now 12 years later, so many of those issues still stand, Pacitti said.

He was like the face of a parent in an incredible important time for gay men. And I was also very interested in the conversations around queerness, something other than the gay liberation model that we’d inherited from America.

Quentin would have hated to be called a political activist, but his status as an icon was politicised whether he chose that or not.

info: Civil will play on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 August at CarriageWorks, Eveleigh. Tickets available via

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