Being queer in a cis-sexist and heteronormative world means a near constant string of coming out situations when you’re placed in the position to correct other people’s assumptions about you. Some coming outs resonate more throughout a lifetime, like with parents or close friends, but that doesn’t make any coming out easy. Here we see 37 different coming out moments through 12 actors and their 94 characters.
It’s a straight-forward concept for a script: all the different ways someone could identify themselves as gay whether to family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, partners, strangers, the list of relationships is endless. Like a series of sketches, the twelve cast members use brightly coloured boxes to loosely block out settings and situations before diving into the reveal. It’s a clever way of exposing how our society’s status quo causes direct harm to people who don’t fit within its assumptions and expectations. What was disappointing, however, was how overwhelmingly white, cisgender, and male these coming out vignettes were. Coming out is not an experience unique to white gay men and it would have been more representative of the LGBTQIA+ community to have a diverse range of stories included.
Additionally, some coming out stories that were included simply missed the mark. A handful of deeply uncomfortable situations in which characters were outed without their consent and depicted as mockable were made more troubling when integrated with stories about the tragic threats of assault, suicide, and AIDS which disproportionately effect the queer community globally. To balance the tone of some community-deprecating coming out stories, the moments of attempted heartbreak seemed shallow and insensitive. Otherwise, all the classic coming out stories are covered from nosy parents to bigoted neighbours to hyper-masculine and misogynistic spaces.
Cast members Charlie Smith, Joshua North, and Sarah Plummer stood out with their versatility and natural ease shifting through so many characters and contexts. Suz Mawer was also an audience favourite as a crotchety and complaining old woman who loses her husband to a new lover. Another favourite scene saw Smith, Brendan Paul, and Simeon Yialeloglou as a British boyband with some mixed-up private and personal love lives.
Due to the huge range of settings being represented in this production, lighting and set design are simple and versatile, covering as much of the stage as necessary. Sound design was a curious selection of famous pop songs loosely tied to their respective scenes which the audience greatly enjoyed harmonising with between scenes.
For so many queer and marginalised people, the process of coming out to correct people’s assumptions about you and defy the cis-sexist and heteronormative societal narrative is a constant consideration. In 37 Ways to Say I’m Gay you’re likely to find a few scenarios that reflect that experience and the oh so many different ways one can come out over a lifetime.
37 Ways to Say I’m Gay is running at Limelight on Oxford from February 20th – March 9th as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.