Review: Boy with the Rainbow Umbrella

Boy with the Rainbow Umbrella
Written/Directed by Coleman Grehan, Starring Nicholas Prior and Lachlan Smith
Produced by Ruby Newport, Design by Kaylee Gannaway
19 Heath Street, East Brisbane

The Boy with the Rainbow Umbrella is a surreal and moving work that interrogates masculine identities. Set in a bedroom in a house in East Brisbane, the production proves that performance can just be anywhere and that a main stage is hardly necessary to make an arresting work.

At 2:50 am, Adrien is stirring in his sleep and a boy, Jay enters, soaking wet. The room is packed and the actor’s clothes drip on my skin. The show was supposedly a promenade but the audience are beckoned into a singular room and everyone sits and are seated for the rest of the show. It’s a very intimate effect, all of us in the one bedroom, although not entirely comfortable for the hour duration of the show. The show isn’t intended to be comfortable, however. The show starts with an eery kind of foreboding tension that doesn’t seem to relent over the course of the show. The design set (by Kaylee Ganaway) is amazing, the frumpy bachelors pad absolutely covered in black and white stripes down to the last detail of a bottle’s label.  The flickering lights and distant hum of music all reminds us how trapped we are, how suffocated these characters feel.

The two characters, Jay and Adrien, are sincere and Nicholas Prior and Lachlan Smith respectively round them out. Neither of them are entirely good, neither are entirely bad, although one in particular has done a very bad thing which is the point. But it’s in the lack of aggression, the tenderness with which Prior says “I can’t forgive you” but then asks “lay with me” that makes the show so beautiful. The show doesn’t need to be didactic because the audience knows that the issue (the Homosexual Advance Defense and the perpetuation of this through bad masculine identities) is a bad thing. It doesn’t need to be said, but the story does need to be told.

It’s a clever script, moments of humour a breath of fresh air through the tense dialogue. It’s shocking in parts, sad in others but also entertaining and thought provoking. Coleman Green has written and directed a work that’s probably the best I’ve seen at Anywhere this year. Unfortunately, the show has sold out after just a short season but I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll see of this creative team.

This review is based off the reviewer’s experience of the show on the 13th of May.
Full disclaimer: This reviewer is friends with some of the cast.