Christmas Eve. A bedroom. Two strangers, their limbs entangled; the doona cover and pillows hiding their identities just a little while longer.
Riley wakes first to chimes from his mobile phone; an alarm
or an early morning text message. He carefully manoeuvres himself away from
last night’s hook-up and drags himself out of bed. His family are coming over for
dinner and he’s got to clean up his new apartment before they arrive.
But first thing is first, he’s got to get rid of “L” – the man
he slept with last night, whose name escapes him right now in his
early-morning, hangover fog.
L doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave, though. He’s checking
his messages; friends are texting photos of their Christmas Eve barbeque,
trying to talk him into coming over. He’s not sure he wants to. He’s also sending
messages to someone in his phone known only as FUTRE HUSBND and ignoring texts
from his dad.
Riley, in a haze, is trying to put the pieces together from
the night before. He got wasted at his work Christmas function then took a taxi
to a gay bar and… that’s where he met L. He was so drunk, he can’t remember
much after that and doesn’t even know if they had sex. L isn’t being very
Jacob Parker’s debut play, This Genuine Moment, starts
out tentatively, which puts us in the shoes – or the bare feet – of two people
waking up to the morning after a big night before. It’s awkward, as these
situations can be, but only Riley seems to care about what went on. L is
already looking for the next thing, as he blithely checks his texts and scrolls
through Grindr as he sits in his underpants on Riley’s bed.
When Riley starts to open up and it’s clear that he wants to
come out to his extended family that night, the play starts to wander down an
all-too-familiar queer narrative path; the naïve in-the-closet gay man is reaching
out to his out-and-proud hook-up to try to make sense of his feelings. He’s
also got a coming out speech he wants to try out on a stranger.
The more and more these characters get to know each other,
though, it becomes clear an even trickier story is unfolding before us; this is
the story of the lies we tell to friends and family and even ourselves to make
each day bearable.
Tom Dawson’s performance as Riley is a compelling mix of
awkward, hesitant, misguided and wise. He lives and breathes every facet of
this complicated character. Ilai Swindells’ turn as L is fascinating to watch,
as we get to learn more about the kinds of lies he’s been telling, without
necessarily getting closer to the truth. Together, the two actors are
mesmerising in this 75-minute show.
There are a lot of technical cues in the production, including
the projection of text messages and Insta photos on the back wall of the
theatre. It threatened to slow proceedings early on (there was a full show stop
called seconds into the opening night performance because of technical
difficulties), but this layer of storytelling isn’t just an affectation – it really
gets to the heart of the complications in these characters’ young lives.
Director Hayden Tonazzi makes clear choices in what to give
and keep from the audience, while letting the actors feel free to fully embrace
the complexity of these characters.
Parker’s script lulls us into a false sense of story-telling
security early on and slowly pulls the doona out from under our tangled
expectations of the evening. This Genuine Moment is not just a morning-after
story, it becomes something of a “this is the first day of the rest of your
life” tale – while never allowing for easy answers, even when they are staring
Riley and L in the face.
Photos: Darren Gill