An intelligent insight into acceptance and inclusion
Entering the Blue Room performance space the set resembles both a tennis court and a cage. Sitting on a high umpire’s chair is the Umpire (Morgan Owen), overlooking the main playing area, wearing a wireless microphone. She prepares us for the arrival of the players and sets the tone for what is about to occur. The character Sport (David Mitchell) enters the space dressed in traditional whites, as if preparing for a game of tennis, however, this assumption is soon dismissed upon the arrival of Queen (Henry Boles AKA Ash Traylia) who is dressed in six-inch heeled glitter sandals over sports socks, a short, white dress, and long blond hair encircled by a sweatband. And there isn’t a tennis racket in sight. What follows is a beautifully choreographed, poignantly written and expertly performed piece of theatre that gives us an insight into the pain and power of realising your identity, in which ever form it takes. Of knowing who you are and having the courage to be who you are.
McMillan has very cleverly structured the play to resemble a tennis match, in that each interaction (point) is to be won or lost, and each scene (game) is a series of points which accumulates into a set to ultimately win the match. In between each game the Umpire interjects to comment on the action, but also to manipulate the players: to judge them and to maintain the competitiveness and discrimination that separates them. The Umpire is a manifestation of those sections of society that discriminate and vilify; however, McMillan’s development of Queen and Sport takes us deeper into the human psyche and reminds us that we all have the capacity to discriminate as the characters turn on each other. Moreover, the play subtly explores the idea that the need to discriminate is a means of hiding from the truth of who we are. Each scene (game) is a struggle between accepting yourself and the differences in others, while being reminded by the Umpire that the objective is to win by point scoring – judging others and controlling yourself. As each game is played between Queen and Sport they become exhausted, both physically and emotionally, by the competition with each other and within themselves.
Boles and Mitchell deliver outstanding performances. Their commitment to each moment and presence as performers is thrilling to watch. There is a chemistry and intensity between them that holds your attention throughout. Likewise, Owen’s portrayal of the Umpire is powerful and captivating as she deftly weaves in and out of the action on court.
McMillan’s writing (with dramaturg Geordie Crawley) is poetic, performative and visionary; and indeed his adeptness in directing is apparent as he has enhanced and possibly surpassed the potential of the play from page to stage. Likewise, Nicole Harvey’s contribution as Assistant Movement Director has heightened the physicalisation of the script and energised its delivery.
Sound designers Alex and Yell capture the wide-ranging dynamics of the show which is enthralling throughout and George Ashforth’s lighting design is applied with subtlety. Costumes by Bianco Roose and Wendy Thompson are fabulous and inventive, and have struck the right balance to represent each character. Likewise, the set, constructed by Paul Grabovac, is functional and symbolic to capture the inner and outer action of the characters.
“Court My Crotch” (an unfortunate title that doesn’t reflect the intelligence and sophistication of the production) was written incorporating real first-hand Australian stories through a process of interviews with the sporting and LGBTQIA+ communities. James McMillan (writer/director) says “We aim through this show to address the inclusion issues currently faced by LGBTQI+ people in sports in Australia and across the globe and begin an important conversation about the effects of this exclusion, and how it permeates broader society.” McMillan and the team have certainly achieved their goal to address these issues and I hope that this important production has the opportunity to tour nationally and internationally. Showing at The Blue Room Theatre, Northbridge until 6 October, 7pm. Bookings: blueroom.org.au or (08) 9227 7005.