BWW Review: THIS QUEER HOUSE, VAULT Festival
A debut play is always tricky business and This Queer House is no exception, with poet Oakley Flanagan penning a piece that's all over the place stylistically and thematically. A young queer couple inherit a house and start renovating it. Their projects, however, are met with resistance by the house itself, which strives to break them apart.
The attempt to mould thriller, farce, and classical comedy to make a statement about gender and sexuality unfortunately doesn't work and the result is an incoherent and disharmonious show. Masha Kevinovna's direction is sadly equally messy, although it clicks with the script. Naturalistic scenes and erratic imagery try to coexist, but a clunky text that's on the nose more than anything else prevents them to blend together.
It feels like the main issue is that the elements are all working on separate levels instead of functioning jointly towards the same endgame. The sound design (composed by Ben Ramsden) tries to build the atmosphere of mystery but the lighting (Gregory Jordan) is doing its own thing, while the actors are also on their own planet with their storyline and the director seeks to keep everything in place.
Liv Ello and Humaira Iqbal do their best as the couple. They fight to escape the traditional binary while their own internal strife complicates their relationship. The real star of the production is Lucia Young, who single-handedly saves This Queer House from the depths of boredom and confusion. Unfortunately the other actors suffer with the unsubtlety of the writing and too-general characterisations, which Young manages to dodge thanks to a series of fun roles and a penchant for physical humour.
It isn't difficult to isolate the metaphor that Flanagan is going for with This Queer House, but the execution doesn't deliver any satisfactory social criticism or denunciation of bigotry. These ideas are lying on the surface but aren't part of it, so the plot seems an afterthought rather than a medium.
Image credit: Tara Rooney