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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Reviews: White Trash Omnibus

Posted in: Performance
By David Herkt & Larry Jenkins - 14th August 2008

Ari Boyland as Kevin in White Trash Omnibus
Cheryl starts to cry. Kevin and Jeremy stop smoking and start kissing. Jeremy unzips Kevin's pants and starts giving him a blowjob.

CHERYL: I think he's having an affair.

ANDREW: What makes you so sure?

CHERYL: He's always late home. He never shows any interest in me and he smells different. Like a man's kissed him. Like he's sucked a man's... He tastes of sperm in his mouth. I never ask why. I'm way too scared too.

ANDREW: I'd catch him and Jeremy at it sometimes.

CHERYL: You reckon it's him?

ANDREW: Maybe.

In the bedroom.

Why are boys better at this than girls? (Laughs.)

JEREMY: You wanna get into bed?

- an excerpt from Patrick Graham's White Trash Omnibus

New Zealand's newest gay-themed theatre production opened last night at Auckland University's Musgrove Theatre. Playwright Patrick Graham had told he wanted to show audiences some gay people that we don't normally experience on mainstream theatre stages – and he certainly did!

The young cast brought to life a bleak plot full of sex, drugs, toilet scenes, violence and incestuous liaisons. It was hard to find a character worth cheering for as the two trashy Kiwi families tore each other apart, but one of our two reviewers found some truth in their reprehensible behaviour:

David Herkt's notes on the show:

If you are gay and in Auckland, and interested in New Zealand Theatre, I urge you to go and see White Trash Omnibus.

It is a delight - and like the best of theatre - it is accurate.

Patrick Graham's depiction of his New Zealand white trash family is more devastatingly honest and far more interesting than Outrageous Fortune.

The actors are all vividly sexually attractive in their own way. Ari Boyland's portrayal of Kevin has it down to a tee - 21 years old, the stonewashed jeans, the jean belt, the sneakers - a strutty little short conflicted nearly-gay boy. It is a great depiction of the sexual animal from your dreams - and the sexual nightmare to relate to…

Jack Seabrook - a total charmer as the 'gay brother'' - ex-rent boy, getting his head around things, gay bastion of the family, with a bent for S&M, stroppily homoerotic but never wetly faggoty, but who ends up happy.

Mike Ginn's 'Jeremy' was so wincing spot-on as the real boy who just can't help himself when he's pissed making advances to other boys - it was scary. I wanted to say to him 'I know someone just like the part you portrayed so well' - that soft bottom boy pushing the straight line, clumsily, who is going to roll over the moment you ask....

And Cheryl - her pregnant mother-to-be was superb, her ghost was exactly as she'd really been all along, extraneous to the boys interacting.... a difficult part, sidelined from the first, but one who puts everyone else into relief.

And Patrick Graham - author, director and actor - Well, Mr Graham, I laughed, I sniggered under my breath, I was sexually attracted, I applauded your accuracy, and admired the fact that while ends are notoriously difficult, honey, you nearly got there to a really, really, great one.

The program states that Mr Graham feels like he is the 'Ed Wood' of New Zealand theatre. If he keeps on going he'll be more of the Tennessee Williams of New Zealand theatre, and god knows we need one.

Larry Jenkins' review contains major plot spoilers you may wish to avoid if you haven't seen the show yet:

Patrick Graham's essay on the low-life is unremittingly grim and unforgiving. The five characters' interwoven lives are played out in direct contrast to the closeness and concern which normally accompany brother-lover-father-daughter-son entanglements. Indeed, these people make every connection a poisonous one and there seems no letup in the negativity they generate through a haze of booze, drugs and passionless sex.

Dennis (Graham) is father to Cheryl (Rylatt) and seducer of her lover (and father of the foetus in her belly) Kevin (Boyland). He's also carrying on a kinky sexual relationship with Kevin's brother, Andrew (Seabrook) whose dissipated paramour Jeremy (Ginn) is also having sex with Kevin – well, you can see what I mean.

I'm afraid there's not really a lot happening except that Cheryl loses her baby after lots of physical abuse by Kevin and soon overdoses, then comes back to haunt them all, justifiably, and to be guardian angel to Andrew, the outrageous queen who looked after her when she was more-or-less living in hopes that Kevin would make an honest woman of her – she even had the wedding dress standing by.

Here we have another of those plays in which homosexuality is presented in an atmosphere of sleaze, deception, and meaningless couplings of drunken and drugged individuals who bring to mind some lines from Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado – namely, …they never would be missed, they never would be missed.

Join that to a lackluster interpretation – directed by the author, who presumably knew what he wanted – so mindbogglingly bland and a style of delivery rendering the dialogue all but unintelligible and what you come up with is a theatrical non-event.

So what is it all about? Is this just a "slice of life"? Is there a message here, an act of redemption in the Cheryl/Andrew symbiosis, she appearing post-mortem to comfort him, her never-used wedding dress doubling as her shroud?

Perhaps I do Graham a dis-service. Considering the play's title, it's conceivable that my reaction is what he's aiming at all along. If so, well done, Patrick, and well done, cast. If not, could you please let us in on the joke?

So… is White Trash Omnibus trash or treasure? Decide for yourself as it continues its run this week at the Maidment Theatre's Musgrove Studio. Book by calling the Maidment on 09 308 2383, or follow the link below.

David Herkt & Larry Jenkins - 14th August 2008