Working on love in the '90s

September 6, 1995

Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love
By Brad Fraser
New Theatre, King Street, Newtown (Sydney)
Reviewed by Peter Boyle
Brad Fraser is reputedly Canada's hottest gay playwright. His plays have become famous for their in-your-face sex scenes, and Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love is no exception. You get lesbian, gay, heterosexual sex scenes, sado-masochism, feverish accounts of sex in the park, real and fake orgasms and heaps of discussion about the topic. What is special about this, in this age of ruthless sexploitation, is Fraser's refreshingly honest treatment of sex and its complications.
After seeing Fraser's Poor Superman performed by the Sydney Theatre Company earlier this year, Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love definitely looks "like work in progress". Poor Superman was a refinement/development of the same subject matter (what does love mean in the '90s) and Fraser's theatrical style (challenging cinema-type script).
But work in progress can be interesting. Issues can be posed more; unanswered questions can reveal real social dilemmas which a skilful playwright might later cover up with witty lines, clever theatrical devices or trendy philosophising.
Fraser seems to be convinced about one thing. Romantic love, as packaged, sold and drilled into our brains, is a myth, while there is real love to be had in a variety of relationships that don't look like the so-called "real thing". A cool person of the '90s might be cynical about romantic love, have many friends and people who really care about her/him, have a robust sex life and still be "searching for love". Fraser asks: why and what is the search for?
His answer in Unidentified Human Remains is tentative. We want "something else", but we are not sure what it is. We are obsessed with sex but are puzzled by its screwed-uppedness and its dislocation with affection and commitment. We are driven by a fear of sorts, but is this fear of loneliness or of other demons? Are these demons real? Can our feelings of alienation really be solved on the personal level?
These questions are left open in Unidentified Human Remains while in Poor Superman Fraser seemed to go one unsatisfactory step further with the Tantric suggestion that one must stop wanting to be what one cannot be before one can be truly happy. This, and New Theatre's good performance, are pluses for this "work in progress".

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