Mardi Gras celebrations are often centred on taking pride in LGBTQIA+ identities and showcasing the many possibilities available in the margins but, simultaneously, this is a time for acknowledging the survival and resilience of a community routinely subjected to violence and systemic persecution. Our Blood Runs in the Street focuses on the findings of the “NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Gay and Transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010”, its reopening in 2019, and the lasting impact of violence.
Using interviews from survivors, advocates, investigators, and other forms of witnesses, Shane Anthony’s new production constructs an image of Sydney from the 1970s into the 1990s when there was a dramatic increase in violent hate crimes committed against LGBTQIA+ people, particularly against gay cisgender men and trans people. At this time it was well-known that assaulting or killing gay men had become a “right of passage” for young gangs and it was routine to find men at the bottom of cliffs near known beats. Despite the prevalence of these crimes, the possible suspects being identifiable by police, and community calls to investigate, many of the victims were brushed aside by police, demonstrating a systemic prejudice and negligence of LGBTQIA+ people.
The ensemble cast move between the past and present with some accounts made in retrospect and others quoted in time. Each story is woven into a larger narrative with movement interludes that crystallise powerful images like a body dangling in air or blood splattered across the ground. Andrew Fraser, in particular, is mesmeric in his movements, performing with superbly rhythmic grace. Additionally, David Helman and Sam Plummer brought dynamic physicality to their performances as survivor and perpetrator, together viscerally balancing the vulnerability and fierce anger alive in this production.
Tim Walker in his representation of a man required to read through the evidence and statements of these hate crimes for the AIDS Council of NSW is impressively gentle; displaying a heartbreaking tenderness that further illustrates the reverberating trauma of violence. Performances from Cassie Hamilton recounting the misrepresentation of violence against trans people in Australia, Eddie Orton as a retired policeman hoping for justice, and Ross Walker as a devastated family member to one of the victims all add greatly to the texture and tone of the production and build a sense of the community involved.
Design includes a deceptively intricate set with a generic, linoleum floor quality that then reveals doorways and a stage to become a prison, an alleyway, a club, and an apartment building. Lighting design by Richard Whitehouse is beautifully done in the shift from transfixing club scenes of blue and pink, capturing the feeling of neon late at night, to the threatening glow of an alley and then again to a chilling scene of violence with cold, harsh lights.
Anthony’s attention to detail across the production and the consistently strong performances elevate this production from a sentimental piece of documentary to an artistically affective experience. The recognition of the Sydney LGBTQIA+ community’s survival through the period of the 1970s-1990s feels encompassing and complicated; pride tinged with tragedy.
Our Blood Runs in the Street is running at the Old Fitz Theatre from February 19th – March 21st as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras