From Mommie Dearest to Black Swan, the high drama and hair-pulling of dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships have always held a special appeal for gay men.

Pictures of Bright Lights, the latest production from the Little Ones Theatre Company, has at its core a very disturbing relationship between Mother (Caroline Craig) and Child (Eryn-Jean Norville) that’s sure to interest queer audiences.

“She’s a young girl who’s been put in a position by her mother where she’s eternally six years old. When we meet her, she’s slowly realising that she’s actually 16 — that she’s developing a woman’s body,” the openly gay Bright Lights director and Little Ones co-founder Stephen Nicolazzo explained.

“This whole production is quite heightened and has quite a camp feel to it, as if you’re watching an old film like The Children’s Hour or Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. It isn’t dealing with queer content at all, but I guess it is always going to be a part of me that will come through.

“Because of the intensity of the mother-daughter relationship, it can get challenging though — for everyone. There’ve been moments where we’ve done a scene that’s been quite beautiful and heartbreaking, and someone will end up weeping. I think that’s a good thing, though!”

Child’s realisation coincides with the arrival in town of a carnival, bringing with it a Story Teller (Kurt Phelan) who’s eager to unearth the truth. Lurking just off stage throughout is the Child’s Father, a character Nicolazzo said held the key to Mother and Child’s unhealthy relationship.

“He’s the Godot of the piece — he’s talked about a lot and expected to be coming home, but he’s really a figure both women hang their expectations and dreams on.”

Melbourne-raised Nicolazzo started Little Ones Theatre at the University of Melbourne five years ago with a strong focus on the development of new Australian writing. The company went on a necessary hiatus when he moved to Sydney and enrolled in the directing course at NIDA, but having graduated last year, he explained he was eager to “get back on track and start producing work again”.

“The writer, Maree Freeman, is actually a NIDA playwright who graduated with me. We developed it there, and then we wanted to take it out into the real world.”

And while Craig’s Mother may sound like a monstrous matriarch, Nicolazzo said he and his team had worked hard to make her relatable.

“Personally, I relate so much to the character of the mother — her need to make things seem right when she knows in her heart that she wants to explode. That’s a dilemma for a lot of gay men sometimes.

“In fact, there is a real tragedy to her, and Caroline has provided this really deep understanding of the pain that she’s going through that makes her very real and not a caricature.”

info: Pictures of Bright Lights plays May 4 – 28 at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre. Visit www.rocksurfers.org

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