Queers – The Importance of Sharing Queer Stories

It can be incredibly painful being invisible in other people’s stories.’

These were the words of an Irishman on the eve of marrying his fairytale prince. Spoken with intimacy over a beer in the pub, I felt my breath catch as I listened. As a middle class, able-bodied white woman, it isn’t often that I feel like my experience hasn’t been represented by somebody else somewhere. I know nothing really of what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. But in that moment, as he looked me in the eye and uttered those words I gained some sense of what that invisibility might feel like.

The Irishman, however, was not my old friend, he was an actor performing a monologue in the play Queers. The pub was really the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Courtyard Studio transformed into the Prince’s Arms, an English pub that has been standing since before the Great War. And I was an audience member digesting his performance.

Queers comprises a series of seven monologues curated by Mark Gatiss (he of Sherlock and Dr Who fame) which is being performed for the first time in Australia with thanks to Everyman Theatre Company. Each monologue sits within a different time period ranging from the first world war through the aids epidemic to the introduction of same sex marriage and is punctuated with a musical interlude befitting the upcoming era.

Dripping with intimacy, all seven performances were deftly paced to take us from laughter to tears, sometimes in the space of a heartbeat. Each story was carefully crafted yet effortlessly evocative – it was all too easy to imagine the French countryside, the smell of a white dress shirt or the bedroom of a mis-matched couple. Queers as a whole was visceral and thought provoking.

Too often queer stories have been sanitised and distorted by heteronormative culture into something more palatable and relatable. Television shows such as Queer Eye and Rupaul’s Drag Race, while undoubtedly raising the profile of marginalised groups, have also narrowed our perception of what it means to be queer. The seven stories shared in Queers importantly highlight the complexity and nuance of sexual expression and gender identity beyond tropes such as the flamboyant gay man or the butch lesbian.

The play examines both what it means to be queer and how this has shifted over time with each of our pub ‘regulars’ grappling with changing perceptions and societal norms. We hear stories of queer communities existing on the fringes of ‘normal’ society, like slippery eels bumping into each other in the dark, as well as ones of more widespread social acceptance which begs the question: even if the queer community gains widespread acceptance, must they now conform to societal norms? Will this actually make them happy?

It can be incredibly painful being invisible in other people’s stories.’

I repeat these words again because they neatly summarise the vital need for creative works such as Queers. Our arts exist to tell stories, to hold a mirror to our society and to question why things are the way that they are, if they should change and how. To do this, we must embrace diversity and as both makers and consumers of art, we must challenge ourselves to look outside our own perspective and experience.

Queers portrays both the uniqueness and complexity of the individual queer experience while reminding us of the universality of our shared human experience in navigating relationships, consent, trauma, legitimacy and fulfilment. This is an important creative work expertly brought to life by a talented local team that ought to be compulsory viewing.

Queers

Closes 20th April

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Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.

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