Camp humour and a serious subject
The art of being still
Written by Steven Dawson
Directed by Karl Steinberg
Universal Theatre, Melbourne, until August 16
Reviewed by Mark Urban
Described by its writer as a "serious comedy", The art of being still deals with the reactions of a group of gay men to the death of a friend from AIDS.
Alan (Nicholas Oploski) has lost his lover Michael to AIDS six months ago. The two were part of a group of friends who always went out together on a Monday night. The remaining five in the group have decided that it is time for Alan to face the real world again, and are determined that he go out and have a good time.
They include Gerald, an airline steward, Barry, a leather queen, his ex-lover Danny who arrives with a bloody nose after trying to pick up a man in a straight bar, and the outrageous Dougie, who brings along his latest bit of trade, a shy country boy who bears a striking resemblance to the late Michael. They try to create the impression that nothing has changed — no-one is prepared to acknowledge the permanent absence of one of their number.
Of course, the evening is a disaster. Gerald constantly puts his foot in his mouth, referring to Michael's death, and Dougie's date walks out on him. Finally, Alan's best friend Phillip forces him to admit that Michael wasn't the saint Alan makes him out to be — he had screwed around behind Alan's back and generally taken him for granted. The revelation forces Alan to admit his own feelings of anger and guilt at being the one who didn't get sick. His friends comfort him as he expresses his grief, and recognise that he will need time to come to terms with his lover's death.
While not afraid to confront the emotional issues head-on, The art of being still is also a very funny play with lots of one-liners and camp humour. While it has particular relevance for gay audiences, this is a play that everyone can relate to and enjoy.