According To Otto – Everything hinges on a moment. (Theatre Review)
According to Otto
The Depot Theatre
14 – 24 Feb. You can grab your tickets here.
For Otto, a sixteen-year-old ready to come out as being gay, life is defined as, ‘that which could be different has not yet begun.’Otto’s unspoken fear is that his life will become a tomb of time, never changing, only to become a symbol of passivity. Whatever functions as an event for Otto, previously repeats that which is always already in the past as part of a different rule. Too be gay and not come out is to be forced to live life as straight – a kind of death of truth. Even being accused of ‘being gay’ exists as a wound, even if it is true. But this representation highlights what is already the case: whoever lives without coming out (in some way) is already dead to truth. Even the straight person has to ‘come out’ in order to escape this Closet that constructs society. Therefore, since Otto tackles the subject of ‘coming out’ (both in his charming narrative and in his life) he knows that, because he himself has left this place, whatever truth he delivers is susceptible to being misrecognized. The Closet is that place one does not exit. The fact that there is an exit to The Closet implies that one can only tell the truth from the outer edges of truth. The immanence excludes its utterance. For all of us who have not fully and cleary declared our sexual orientation, The Closet is our safe space that slowly kills us.
To come as close as possible to our own truth, the kind of transformation is required that respects The Closet as an evidence closed in on itself. The underlying philosophy of this descriptive apparatus consists in guaranteeing the dominant grip of space over time. The Closet, in this regard, is anti-Hegelian. If for Hegel, the concept is present in time, then the absence of meaning is a succumbing to exteriority. The walls of The Closet, keep us all on the outside clinging to false assignations of social status. In here we see the warm enormity of Wayne Tunks’ writing. According to Otto is nothing more than the retelling of stories we presume to be true for many, yet the simplicity, accessibility and warmth (twisting the soap opera narrative style) of Otto’s story and story-telling draws us into the kind of recognition of Other that The Closet seeks to prohibit. As Wayne Tunks forces us to experience TV storytelling differently (in that theatre forces its transformation on the soap opera) Otto has us see ourselves differently inside the familiar. In this way, Otto and Wayne Tunks confront the temptation of any everyday workers prose: populism, the paternal gaze upon extant miseries, the self-satisfied gap between the narrative dignity and vulgar human materials. The bravura of According to Otto lies in not seeking to sidestep this risk. Wayne Tunks restores the spontaneous speech of the everyman by pulling it from The Closet in a procedure of interrogation-reconstruction in which this everyday language attaches itself to general neutrality, like gravel stuck in the cement of the text. In other words, by using the language of The Closet, Wayne Tunks effectively lights the path for the audience to fine the way out.
In this way According to Otto stands separate from other pieces displayed at Mardi Gras. Rather than beyond The Closet, According to Otto also speaks to a beneath. (Or kind of inside) Because if it is true that The Closet structures the opposition between social constraints and social consciousness it does not follow that its active essence can be resolved into these two terms. For Otto, trouble exists in and out. His choice is determined by which battle he wants to fight rather than to escape a battle.
According to Otto is currently showing at the Depot Theatre in Marrickville. This is a charming production carried by warm, cheerful writing by Wayne Tunks and an engaging performance by Jasper Musgrave as Otto. The cast is clever and engaged, the set gorgeous in its LGBTIQ colours and the direction energetically pumped. The night I attended was sold out, and the audience relaxed, happy and fully engaged in the affable energy infused through the joyfully unpretentious Depot Theatre. This is a witty production, full of twists and turns – Wayne Tunks knows how to keep our attention while being good for our conscience. According to Otto is a lovely contribution to the hurdy-gurdy of mardi gras, a simple, down to earth tale told well. It’s a production you can take your kids to, and your aging parents. There are only a couple more opportunities to see According to Otto, so make sure you get there.
 Francis Bon, Sortie d’usine (Paris: Minuit, 1982)