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Thursday 10 November 2016

Signing in and hooking up

Posted in: Performance
By Sarah Murphy - 22nd September 2016

Hook-up boys is the sexy, and slightly dirty, new play by prominent writer and director Bruce Brown that brings to the stage the stories about the apps, snaps and hookups that heavily feature in the modern gay experience. Now on and sold out at Auckland’s The Basement Theater, we chat to Bruce about sex, connection and hooking up.

Producer of the Legacy Project and having directed Shakespeare's The Winter’s Tale in 2012, April Phillips' Hotel in 2014 and Terry Johnson's The Graduate earlier this year, Bruce says he’s been exploring the ways gay guys seek connection in his work for some time now and that he’s always be interested in the reasons behind the desire for sex.

“I’m particularly drawn to how our coming out experiences and our search for a sense of place within a community is being coloured these temporary encounters,” he says. “This contradiction between disconnection and connection was the starting point behind this play.”

“We learn fast in the hook-up world that you are only worth the attention you get, which is generally tied to your looks. Your sexuality is defined by your sexual preferences, rather than who you might see yourself as. It’s a meat market where you’re desperate to please anyone but the one person that actually matters: yourself. We view other profiles as a collection of dick pics, rather than an actual person who has their own baggage, wants and needs.”

With all of this in mind, Bruce says without giving away too much or spoiling the show, he likes to think all the characters experience a shift over the course of the play. “Each has the potential to hurt others, as much as they can be hurt themselves.”

“In each encounter, they have the ability to be the victim, the bad guy… or both. How the audience interprets the actions and motivations of the characters should reveal a truth about how they view their own hook-up experiences.

The show not only deals with the concept of hook-ups but also of intimacy, something that is often a difficult concept for many outsiders to grasp. “I don’t believe intimacy is being misrepresented between gay men, but certainly the relationship between sex and intimacy is. They are quite often confused as the same thing, which speaks more to the issues of subjecting specific gay narratives into stories for heteronormative audiences. So until we start breaking the existing storytelling moulds and challenging ourselves to share our own viewpoints, we are only going to get more of the same poorly misrepresented stories being made.”

As a writer, Bruce says everything he writes is inspired by his own experiences, but that doesn’t mean all of his work is deeply autobiographical. “I daydream a lot and most of my ideas come out of thinking ‘what if’,” he says. “It’s how I develop stories in my head before I actually sit down to start writing. I’ve made a number of mistakes and regrets over the years, so by thinking about my own life and considering the road not taken, maybe this is my own way of progressing through all those thoughts and feelings.”

If you’ve seen the show and are wondering if any of the characters are based on real life people, you may just be right. “The characters all have elements of me in them - especially the dry humour - as well as other people I have met, but no single character is meant to represent me or anyone else I know,” says Bruce. “Hopefully the audience will be able to see parts of themselves in the characters and the choices they make.”

So how does modern day hook-up culture differ from the culture of previous generations?

“Nothing has changed,” says Bruce, “but we have got worst. We cheat, deceive and hide behind our online profiles more so now than ever before. We lie that we only want NSA fun when we actually want that special someone to spoon with and make us breakfast. Most of all, we lie to ourselves. When we aren’t being honest about the ways in which we are using technology to enable these temporary encounters and to distance ourselves from the real people behind the torso pics, how can we ever truly find the connection?”

If you’re keen to head along and unsure what exactly to expect, a heads-up from the writer himself, expect witty dialogue, awkwardness and loads of sex conversations. “Expect to laugh, to think and to possibly view your own hook-up experiences slightly differently.”

Hook-up Boys 
20-24 September, 6.30pm
The Basement Theatre, Auckland

Sarah Murphy - 22nd September 2016

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