Barry Lowe’s play about a guy pursued by the ghost of his favourite porn star is vulgar, pornographic and fairly artless. And the punters seem to love it.
Everyone knows gay audiences are discerning. That’s until they’re faced with choosing between plays exploring serious gay issues and plays exploring serious gay sex.
When I was an actor in Sydney’s early gay theatre, we wondered why straights but not gays were coming to our well-meaning new plays from overseas about gay life. The problem was that these plays were bled of gay sex -“ and far raunchier times were on show in the sex venues.
In two decades as a gay playwright, Lowe, however, never had trouble being lowbrow.
In Seeing Things, first staged in 1993, we meet young Clarrie and his porn hero Randy, who’s just died in a car accident but is now inexplicably lodged in Clarrie’s wardrobe.
Apprehensive about sex with ghosts, Clarrie consults a spiritualist friend Ziggy (well played by Mona Kanaan) who herself is quite happy in the company of literary lesbians long dead.
Clarrie is also trying to get out from under (literally) his angry bisexual boyfriend, Earl. But then Earl is well bored (and from his expression seems to enjoy it) by a young stud friend of Clarrie’s. Indeed Mac and Earl can only work out whose turn it is by counting through the used condoms on each side of the bed.
Randy meanwhile is hot to trot but exasperated by the impact of his own ghostly thrusts -“ his bottoms feel nothing except a lot of ghostly hot air. Some of the almost exclusively male audience groan at this. But after all, this is a bent romantic comedy and Lowe knows his audience, the bodies are hot and the scenes direct and to the point.
Jokes are also plentiful but first-time director Darrin Redgate shows no understanding of the comic rhythms required, or the truth of acting required, to maximise the laughter. Promising stage business like Randy being unseen to all but Clarrie is not explored.
Mark Inwood, a personal trainer by daylight, plays just the right mix of porn star ego and coquetry. The bug-eyed acting, however, of Rodney Dean as Clarrie fails to support the central truth of the play.
But hell, stuff the critics, go see it for the mindless sex.
Seeing Things is at the PACT Theatre, Erskineville, until 29 October.