“We love in two different ways. I can bear it. Most of the time. I can bear it. Most of the time. It’s fine” (Bathsheba Doran’s Parents’ Evening, 2003)
“If pressed to say why I loved him, I feel it can not be expressed except by saying: because it was him; because it was me” (Montaigne writing about his friendship with Etienne de La Boetie in Essais, 1595)
“Marriage is a great plain of emotion that takes place in private, little rooms” (Bathsheba Doran, 2016)
Marriage is the uniting thread that runs through the three plays by Bathsheba Doran that are referred to collectively as The Marriage Plays: Parents’ Evening (2003), Kin (2011) and The Mystery of Love & Sex (2015). The plays’ investigation of love and friendship provide the framework for a complex web of related ideas that are not necessarily resolved but are always present; race, gender, sexuality, family, generational conflict, guilt and grief. They run under the surface of the common place activities that make up the physical action of the play. Doran’s interest in the everyday reminds me of the early work of contemporary Australian artist Helen Eager. Eager’s domestic interiors focus on details such as the edge of a piece of furniture against an open window or doorway. Like Doran’s plays, it is a glimpse of a wider drama.
The Mystery of Love & Sex takes place in domestic spaces on the outskirts of a major city in the American south; a university dorm room, a suburban living room and a backyard shaded by a large tree that the children used to climb. It overshadows the house like the elms in O’Neil’s Desire Under the Elms; protective and watchful. The tree is an archetypal symbol of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation, marriage and renewal. Chinese artist Cai Gui-Qiang’s work Eucalyptus 2013, in part, positions the tree as the embodiment of our legacy on a personal and global level. In the context of the American South, the tree is also a symbol of that country’s troubled race-relations. Jonny’s mother has told him that ‘they lynched a man on that tree one time’. The tree casts its shadow over the entire play.
None the less, there is a tremendous amount of compassion and joy in The Mystery of Love & Sex and Dorans examination of family – the one we are born into and the ones we create. The end of play has a bitter-sweet quality that reminds me of Shakespeares festive comedies. The plays final scene takes place in a garden in the early summer where we sense briers shall have leaves as well as thorns / and be as sweet as sharp. (All’s Well that Ends Well). I am thrilled to be working on the play in the context of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras especially when the national conversation about marriage equality has be stalled by a lack of political will. To be doing a play about love, sexuality, gay marriage and families by a female playwright that champions a womans story is indeed something to celebrate.
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Posted 14 Feb 2017