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From the moment the lights went up for Gaybies, I was hooked.
A children’s party sets the scene – a long trestle table littered with streamers, party hats and, of course, a cake fills the stage at Southbank Theatre.
Over the loudspeakers, questions begin to pour into the auditorium like “what’s it like with two mums?” while the stunning cast silently trickle out on to the stage.
Characters began to share the real stories of children born to parents who grew up with same-sex parents at some point in their lives.
Some were born to lesbian mums and gay dads while other parents would later split to go on and find their gay, lesbian, bisexual or even transgender partner.
Some stories came from children, who mid-sentence would wander off or throw a tantrum.
Other stories came from ‘gaybies’ with their own kids who were basked in the love of their gay grandparents.
Just about every age demographic is covered here, weaving a colourful chronology of the ‘gaybies’ experience.
The show is simple and elegant – it has no overt political message outside of the occasional reference to gay marriage and homophobia – which is what I believe will make this piece somewhat timeless for gay audiences in the future.
Gaybies illustrates a genuine portrait of gay families, or as genuine as I could imagine. It does not shy away from the tougher stories that we, the LGBTI community, like to hide when the topic of gay people raising children rears its ugly head.
The show looks into the aftermath when gay couples split but it does not dwell on it, simply because all families have their ups and downs and that’s life.
It’s heart-warming but not midday movie-cheesy.
The cast were brilliant and equally superb. Todd McKenney, Magda Szubanski, Virginia Gay and Kate Kendall – the TV stars we know from afar were outstanding. But the lesser known actors were also fantastic from the uber-straight Ben Mingay, deliciously camp Trevor Ashley and Georgia Scott’s suburban mum, to name just a few.
It’s nice in the best way – the way families are nice. I guess the overall message I took away, with a grin on my face, was ‘gay families are still families’.
That, or perhaps in the words of one 24 year-old gayby with three mums, “Mother’s Day is f*cked!”
Gaybies runs until Saturday January 19 at the Southbank Theatre.
Photo by Pia Johnson.