As this was to be the play that closed off my Anywhere Fest for 2015, I suppose I had high hopes. I wanted to end on a strong point, with a piece of theatre that would leave me with a feeling, and have me satisfied at the end of my sixteen-show run as a reviewer. And you know what? LGBTWho did just that. It gave me a warm and simple foray into verbatim theatre (my first in the festival, I believe), and delivered what was possibly the clearest-cut experience I had in Anywhere 2015, aside from perhaps Deep Blue’s Into The Dark.
The premise in this show is simple—there are a series of topics that concern the LGBTQ+ community up on the wall behind the two actors, and the audience gets to vote on the order that the show addresses them. This and the other elements of audience participation are not quite as intense as in, say, The Reality Event, but instead serve as a lighthearted way to break up the show as members of the crowd are invited up to act out the roles of in-show cameos or real-world celebrities (gender-bending is encouraged). And as with everything in this show, it’s simple, fun, and effective—throughout LGBTWho’s runtime everyone in the room was laughing and the space, despite being a weak choice in the context of Anywhere, held what might have been the most delightful audience and atmosphere of any single show I attended in the festival.
And maybe that’s because the audience a production like this draws is naturally going to be a selection of Brisbane’s most open, art-appreciating subcultures—and thus, a majority of them lovely. All of us sat there as the two actors before us switched up their genders constantly (indicated by the twist of a restroom-style sign around each of their necks) and delivered verbatim accounts of LGBTQ+ love, heartbreak, family crises, and harassment. And while the segment towards the end with the educational powerpoints did start to get a bit old, the charm of the actors almost allows them to carry the play on their own. So while the first half, before the intermission, is definitely stronger, the second half is by no means bad. There’s nothing necessarily lacking in the second half—it just runs a bit long. It feels maybe that the play achieved everything it needed to about forty minutes in—after all, there have already been so many perspectives shot off during the verbatim segments of the show that you can’t help but feel desensitised to it all by about halfway through.
And I don’t say ‘desensitised’ in a bad way, either—rather, by blasting through so many tiny vignettes of the queer community all at once, the show successfully normalises their perspectives. All the novelty wears off after about fifteen minutes, and by the end you’re just listening to the stories of regular people, and that’s an awesome accomplishment. Because in the end, LGBTWho is a production about regular people, who are all very similar to everyone else no matter their orientation. And for the show to inspire such a clear understanding of this in its audience I suppose is exactly what makes LGBTWho a success.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the closing-night performance on May 24.