The Bed Party – Making the invisable, visable. (Theatre Review)
The Bed Party
The Old 505 Theatre Freshworks
The great Luce Irigaray in her book ‘To Speak is Never Neutral’ expands an idea that in order to properly understand language, writing it down is as essential as speaking. The author uses this style to reveal (in the most comprehensive analysis to date) the patriarchal bias inherent in scientific language. Its an interesting idea to slide this theory over to theatre. Theatre is unique in that it is text and speech together. The Bed Party was written, according to the writer Sophia Davidson Gluyas, to perform the function of having herself and her friends properly represented on the stage. This is a complex tension, because who ever sees themselves properly represented on the stage? I most certainly do not (or worse – I see myself misrepresented). Representations are mostly aspirational, even for upholders of patriarchal institutions. Instructive rather than mirroring. White middle-class men going off to their routine job in real estate like to think it’s really like ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ rather than the drudgery of what they do each day. Art does not necessarily imitate life, life imitates art. Theater is more complicated because writing causes nakedness. We see, hear, smell, touch but also read. Messages usually lost in speech get through via the space around the text. Omissions are felt yet difficult to identify. The tension we feel has more to do with what theatre is upholding in its organism, than what is being spoken from the boards. The cry that I am physically absent from the theatre is problematic because there is a place to stand where everyone is. The only way to argue that is to homogenise any and every group to justify rectifying tension. The only answer is to write your piece, as you wish to be seen and produce it.
Sophia Davidson Gluyas has the same experience of feeling misrepresented by the theatre. Her answer to this is to write The Bed Party and present her and her lovely women friends into the theatre space.
The Bed Party is an idyllic and beautiful depiction of female solidarity. Writer Sophia Davidson Gluyas places five lesbians and a bisexual woman in a giant bed to talk out the everyday struggles of their lives. Each have their cuteness, their foibles, their misplaced zealotry, their intact ideology. Each is trying to make sense of their lives and each is working hard to understand what it is to be a good citizen and a good friend.
Director Sophia Davidson Gluyas supported in her efforts by Elaine Hudson does a wonderful job in this production with the resources and support available. The complex scenario drawn by the writing is skewed by the direction towards its enormous heart and generosity which is its strength. It’s the spirit of warmth that pervades the group that gives it its power, and it is this that gives the group its dignity. The performance is permeated with some very beautiful songs and music curated and collected from around the feminist, gender diverse and queer communities in Sydney and Melbourne. Local performers talking about local issues. The result of such collaboration is a sense of intimacy and connection with the characters that permeates the room.
Sophia Davidson Gluyas draws fine performances from her cast, with a stand out from Suz Mawer as the bisexual feminist trying to convince her friends of her authenticity. Also strong is Julia Billington as the feminist choosing between love and ideology. Alex Moulis is delightful as the soft-spoken egg head of the group and Brigitta Brown (who has excellent comic timing) is a great all-inclusive feminist stumbling with the changing landscape around her. Mathilde Anglade is a real find for the production as the warm generous George (I particularly liked this character) and Margarita Gershkovich rounds the cast out as the tragic Kelly who loses her great love.
The Bed Party does not, like all plays, properly and faithfully represent everyone, every female, every lesbian or even every feminist scholar. What it does is tell a story that needs to be written. The key to our anxiety over the tension of misrepresentation is to write our story and have that story told. No one else can do this for us, and no one else should.