Leaps the '90s in a single bound


Poor Super Man
By Brad Fraser
Sydney Theatre Company's New Stages
Wharf 2, Sydney, until April 29
Reviewed by Peter Boyle

Q: Have you heard the rumour that Superman was gay? His obituary in the November 20, 1992, Sydney Morning Herald reported that he never married and had no children, and after countless episodes of his life produced by DC Comics between 1938 and 1992, Superman and Lois Lane never got it off with each other.

A: That proves nothing! Superman was an alien from the planet Krypton. He couldn't possibly mate with an Earthling, stupid! Anyway, he died in Lois Lane's arms. This rumour must be some dirty pooftah plot to subvert masculinity or a filthy commie scheme to undermine "truth, justice and the American way".

The Man of Steel may have died from an overdose of green Kryptonite three years ago in the comic strip, but he's reborn in Canadian playwright Brad Fraser's Poor Super Man. This time there is no doubt about his sexuality. He is gay, a successful artist, friend to the death of an HIV-positive trannie and platonic mate of an alcoholic journalist, Kryla. He can leap bedheads, frustrate art columnists and seduce married men, in a single bound or two.

Fraser's witty script makes for an exciting exploration of the search for new rules in human relationships in the '90s. It is an old theme, but to get to a 1990s audience a play has to beat TV.

Fraser knows the '90s audience. He successfully adapted another of his plays for cinema with Love and Human Remains, which received the Genie Award for best adapted screenplay in 1994 and has been acclaimed as a movie "about the '90s". And if the script and the racy and pacy action in Poor Super Man aren't enough to get the message across, Fraser has captions flashed onto three screens.

In Poor Super Man, the current sexual order is temporarily inverted. Heterosexuality is pushed to the margins, and the audience cheers as Fraser's Superman, like a Canadian "Mounty", gets his man. Heterosexual characters collapse from lack of spine and drown in a cocktail of prejudice and superficiality while the dying trannie becomes the sage.

But the "new rules for the '90s", aren't so new in the end, we discover: warmth, basic honesty and human solidarity still go a long way, it seems. Loneliness and betrayal are not much fun. People go around with a spring in their step the morning after a good bonk. And we are reminded that imagining one is Superman can be an emotional and physical health hazard. Maybe there is nothing so new about the 1990s after all.

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