Theatre / “Table Manners”. Written by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Michael Weston. At Belconnen Theatre until October 28. Reviewed by LEN POWER
A NEW play exploring the changes that have occurred over the last four decades through the eyes of three gay characters is about to take the stage at the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Courtyard Studio.
The work of Canberra playwright and theatre identity Trevar Alan Chilver, “78 Reasons to Stay the Night” is aimed at sparking refreshed conversations about same-sex relationships across the generations as it looks forward to 2018, the 40th anniversary of the first Sydney Mardi Gras. Chilver directed, with assistant director, Glenn Braithwaite.
Chilver is best known to Canberra audiences as the founding director of the community theatre organisation Canberra Dramatics. In recent years he has divided his time between Canberra and London, where his play “The Ballad of Hobart Jones” received a rehearsed reading in 2015. More recently he took over the direction of Canberra’s Short+Sweet Theatre festival.
Chilver’s script follows a period of research during which he walked the route of the 1978 Mardi Gras with two of the “78ers”, Mark Gillespie and Steve Warren, who described their experiences of that night.
His challenging but often comic play is set in the present, and focuses on a fictional 78er, whose experiences of gay life over the years stand in stark contrast to those of younger-generation gay men.
“78 Reasons to Stay the Night” introduces us to Malcolm, who could once attract a boy with the wink of an eye. But age is taking its toll and nowadays having his usual rent boy replaced at the last minute can put a spanner in the works. Things look like taking take a turn for the worse until it turns out that Malcolm’s stories can break the ice.
Chilver says it has been particularly fascinating to explore what happens when two very different people with drastically different experiences of the same aspect of their lives find themselves connecting.
“We don’t hear enough about queer history and when we do we hear more about the activists who made change happen,” he says.
“78 Reasons to Stay the Night,” Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, August 2-9. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.
The August 3 performance will be followed by a community forum exploring the changes for the LGBTIQ+ community over the four decades since the first Mardi Gras.