Before we start, Stephen Colyer is quite aware that his company is not the first group of its kind to hit Sydney. Theatre reviewer Stephen Dunne wrote an honours thesis on the subject 10 years ago, detailing gay theatre companies in Sydney going back almost 40 years. Colyer tells me he’s been trying to track the thesis down, for deeply pragmatic reasons.
It’s crucial that I learn about the previous organisations and maybe try and surmise what happened and why they didn’t last, says Colyer, sipping a coffee and very earnest.
Colyer’s enthusiasm, though, is tempered with commonsense and a wide sweep of experience in the industry. He’s danced with the Australian Ballet, sung with Opera Australia and acted in a handbag of musicals (from The Wizard Of Oz to Beauty And The Beast, in which he played the Cheesegrater). A graduate of NIDA’s directing course, Colyer recently helmed the Oz Showbiz Cares fundraiser Songs Of Schwartz And Sondheim, as well as directing From D’Rags To Riches for Mardi Gras. His CV is both camp and eclectic, although it was only recently that he discovered a singular raison d’?e.
I was applying for the Associate Director’s program at Sydney Theatre Company and there was some question about what you see your role in theatre as a director would be, says Colyer. The thing that kept coming up for me was that I would like to see plays with gay and lesbian themes performed on a more regular basis -¦
I think there is a need for a theatre organisation that is vigilant about seeing gay and lesbian lives staged, having their stories told. Maybe it is old-fashioned too, I don’t mind that so much, in that I come from a background with a classical ballet company, where they still do Swan Lake, they still do Giselle -¦
There is merit in seeing them done in their historical context. I think the same thing applies to the canon of gay plays, insists Colyer, whose favourites include Torch Song Trilogy and The Children’s Hour.
Colyer is also keen for productions of his plays to provide another entertainment option in Sydney that’s specific to our community as well as remembering that younger members of the tribe might find the productions important. When they’re searching themselves and struggling with their sexuality, it would be great if there were plays being performed on a regular basis, where they could go and see characters portrayed that they can relate to.
First up for the company is a contemporary piece by New York playwright Nicky Silver. With producer Sara Grenfell, they’ve already hit the right buttons. The S/M-ish comedy stars ex-Home And Away spunk Ryan Kwanten and Daniel Billet. Fit To Be Tied has been successfully produced in the states, and is full of crowd-pleasing one-liners. They also have sponsors lined up for this play and the next venture, although Colyer knows that success hinges on one crucial factor.
I think at the end of the day it’s about community support, whether the community responds strongly to what you’re doing and gets behind it, says Colyer.
Fit To Be Tied opens tonight at 8pm and runs until 3 August, at the Darlinghurst Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point. Tickets range from $25 to $20 and may be booked on 8356 9987.