Featuring in the line-up for this year’s Short and Sweet festival are two plays that take a darkly comical look at gay male stereotypes.

Of the 1,500 entries that applied for Short and Sweet, Australia’s premier short play festival, Steven McGrath’s Personal Jungle and Michael Callahan’s The Gay Hangman were chosen as two of the 90 finalists.

Both deal with the ludicrous nature of stereotypes. Personal Jungle tells of protagonist Paul’s quest to discover his manhood in the jungles of Africa, with a little bit of help from Tarzan and his fag hag sidekick Jane.

“Growing up in a rough, small town I was never as masculine as I wished I could be,” playwright Steven McGrath said, referring to where the inspiration for a male identity quest came from.

“I think masculinity is mainly about being assertive and being in control of your life. When I started developing the play I thought, the character that is most in control of his world is Tarzan, even though he is fictitious.

“The idea of a macho man in control of his own paradise is an appealing idea to play around with as a comedy.”

Callahan’s The Gay Hangman takes a darker approach, telling of the last moments in a magician’s life as he is led to the gallows to be done away with by a flamboyantly gay hangman.

Director Natalie Matiuk said the hangman, Sydney, is a flamboyant gay character, who provides contrast to the deep, dark Norman (the magician).

“Exploring the homosexuality of Sydney was very important in order to represent just how different the characters are, yet so similar in their lack of empathy, conscience and outlook on life,” she said.

“As a director, my aim was to emphasise just how physically different they were, yet incredibly similar on a much deeper level.”

To see two thoroughly entertaining as well as mentally engaging short plays, head along this week and bolster their support for a chance to win one of the coveted Best of the Week or People’s Choice awards.

Personal Jungle plays at the Newtown Theatre, 12-17 February. The Gay Hangman is at the Seymour Centre, 16 February. Bookings and other info through www.shortandsweet.org.

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