Acts of Deceit (Between Strangers in a Room)

Devised as a loose adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1956 novella Giovanni’s Room, Gary Abrahams’ Acts of Deceit (Between Strangers in a Room) charts the tumultuous tangle of relationships between five foreigners living in Paris in the early 50’s.

Midsumma FestivalLa Mama Courthouse, Carlton Sunday, 24 January, 2010 
Devised as a loose adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1956 novella Giovanni’s Room, Gary Abrahams’ Acts of Deceit (Between Strangers in a Room) charts the tumultuous tangle of relationships between five foreigners living in Paris in the early 50’s.
Issues of race are as much in the centre of this plot as the subject of sexuality. We are faced with five characters, all of whom are in denial about their true identities and purpose in life. The characters personas are two-pronged, based on nationality and sexual orientation; their only link being the city of Paris as the backdrop to their lives. David (Jay Bowen), Hella (Joanne Trentini) and Sue (Zoe Ellerton-Ashley) seemingly have the world at their feet as the “untouched and unspoiled” Americans living in Paris. Outwardly gay and older, wiser Englishman Jacques (Dion Mills) has basically given up ever discovering his purpose in life, and African immigrant Ku-Jean (Terry Yeobah) is happy to be anywhere as long as it’s not Africa. And so he finds himself working as a barman at a ragged Parisian bar frequented by David, Jacques and the peacocks’: aka the ‘beautiful boys’. This is how the three meet and where the trouble starts.
I won’t delve into the plot much further here; it’s important to ride the whole journey yourself. Suffice to say that Acts of Deceit presents complex understandings of both homosexuality and racism and attempts to define the differences between those all-empowering emotions of love, lust and desire. I’ve never seen male homosexuality explored in such a raw, masculine way on stage before and this was tremendously refreshing and honest. 
Bowen and Yeobah are compelling with their portrayals of excruciating love and Lachlan Tan and Geoff Chan’s music direction and composition is superb in singlehandedly transporting us back to the heady days of smoky 1950’s Parisian bars and dingy hotel rooms filled with frisky young travellers and lonely middle-aged men.
An intimate set ensures we are instantly and permanently drawn to the complicated lives of these five troubled souls, and as the plot unfolds this also means we feel increasing discomfort about what is happening between them all. And this makes it all the more real as a reminder of how far we have come in terms of sexual and racial liberation since the 1950’s. 
Until 7 February, 2010

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