Friday, 19 January 2018

Strangers In Between @ Trafalgar Studios

Strangers In Between @ Trafalgar Studios

Strangers In Between is an exploration of an alternative family unit in the gay community, but it's held back by stereotyping and a messy story that's sometimes touching but lacks raw honesty.

Shane (Roly Botha) is a bubbling mass of hormones and conflict. He's left behind his family in small town Australia for the dazzling urbanity of Sydney. Here he hopes to explore his sexuality and make a new life for himself, but he's torn between flirting with the locals and a past of sexual abuse that causes outbursts of homophobic rage. He's a complex character who frustrates us as much as we sympathise with him, but neither Botha's acting nor Tommy Murphy's script are quite nuanced enough to contain him.

On his journey of self-discovery he meets two men who become his surrogate family. Will (Dan Hunter, who also doubles as Shane's brother) is the sexy hunk whose one night stand with Shane leads to an annoying shadow and a nasty case of genital warts. And Peter (Stephen Connery-Brown) is the typically artistic father figure who takes Shane under his wing and into his kitchen, never far from a bottle of wine. Connery-Brown is given most of the witty comments and provides the majority of the play's entertainment as he dryly quips on Shane's situation and puts him in his place.

Shane barks back at them and retaliates, yet the other two men ultimately dote on him. The final image is of a dysfunctional family and while it's meant to reflect the positivity of the community, it just doesn't feel likely or earned in this instance. And the narrative plays out to the backdrop of what looks like a sauna, but is eventually revealed to be a bathroom used only in one scene - seedy sexual activity looms constantly in the background.

What we're left with is a clich├ęd story of a twink, a hunk and an older queen that, like so many stories of homosexuality, revolves around an STI. Despite some likeable chemistry between the actors, Strangers In Between is content to simply depict outdated conventions without breaking new ground.

2/5

Watch: Strangers In Between runs at the Trafalgar Studios until February 3rd.

Photo: Scott Rylander