On the surface, writer Edward Albee’s controversial play The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? is about modern society’s reaction to zoophilia (sex with animals).
But underneath it seems to be making more of a comment on underlying attitudes toward homosexuality.
Martin (played by William Zappa) is an award-winning architect at the top of his game who has just landed a multi-billion-dollar deal to design a massive new city in the middle of America.
He has a beautiful and adoring wife, Stevie (Victoria Longley), and a 17-year-old son, Billy (Cameron Goodall), who has recently come out as being gay.
They seem like the perfect modern family -“ until it emerges Martin has been having an affair with Sylvia, who happens to be a goat.
When it premiered in New York in 2002, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? won the Tony Award for best play (Albee also won the Tony in 1962 for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?), and it was a hit in London when it premiered there in 2004.
Now Sydney audiences are to get a taste of this black comedy during its run by Company B at the Seymour Centre.
Cameron Goodall, who plays the gay son, said the play isn’t really about bestiality.
That’s just a starting point to kick off an examination of a whole range of taboos in the arena of love, Goodall, who also played the role in Adelaide last year, said.
Thirty or 40 years ago it might have been enough for this story to work to have Sylvia be a drag queen. But nowadays that doesn’t have the shock value. It needs to be something so outside the square to generate the drama of the play.
Albee, who himself is gay, is commenting on the way natural human impulses can go against all of society’s rules.
We tend to civilise ourselves and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to behave in certain ways, and we’re conditioned to do that socially for a whole range of reasons, Goodall said.
But I think Albee’s saying there’s this thing boiling away underneath that, and sometimes there’s a pressure between those two things that can have huge results.
What I think the play makes you do -“ what it’s made me do -“ is re-evaluate your moral boundaries. Which I think is healthy to do anyway.
The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? runs from 6 April to 7 May at the York Theatre, The Seymour Centre. Bookings 9699 3444 or at the Belvoir Street Theatre website.