At a time when gender, sexuality and individual identity are undergoing a radical re-examination, John Fitzpatrick’s play This Much (or an Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage), written as part of the Royal Court Writers’ Programme, examines the tug of war between wanting to belong to society and being true to yourself.
The play asks if we form relationships to be happy or do it because we fear the alternatives and need to fit in. Does the tradition of marriage have intrinsic value or has its historical significance invested it with a value that has passed its sell by date?
Set amidst a traditional wedding party and featuring a classic disco soundtrack, this three-hander traverses a story of adrenalin-fuelled games, heart-breaking highs and lows, violent confrontation and moments of love and humanity. Gar can’t decide between the man who plays games and the man on one knee with a ring, and every choice seems like a compromise.
As boundaries between audience and performers are blurred, This Much… questions suddenly being allowed to fit in, whether you want to fit in anymore or what that meant in the first place.
Ahead of opening night, we spoke with playwright John Fitzpatrick for a behind-the-scenes look at the play:
What was the inspiration for this play?
There’s no escaping the fact that this is a very personal play. Not that it’s autobiographical but many of the thoughts and feelings are close to my own. I think I was trying to figure out what I wanted from relationships. I had grown up with the family as supposedly the centre of a stable society and family in those terms meant marriage.
If you grow up gay, even in the most liberal society, there is the residue of discrimination, inequality and the not so distant spectre of criminality.
The question I’m asking is – if you grow up with this shame, however subtle, how do you find a way to love yourself and in turn find love?
Which is probably a good question for everybody to ask themselves, no matter how they identify: What’s stoping you from agreeing with the people who love you?
Are you drawing on personal experience for this story?
There’s a scene where two of the characters get their cocks out in the park. I have definitely never done that! Not in the park anyway. But I’ve certainly lived some of the moments in the play.
Does marriage equality change the game for gay men?
I don’t think it does really. I think what it did, certainly in Ireland where everybody voted for it, was show the few naysayers that they were no longer the status quo.
Essentially if there’s exclusion based on difference then that’s a civil rights issue and as such is discrimination. The protection of people’s equality should be written into law whether voted on or not.
Strictly speaking, I think equal marriage should have been passed into law by the government without a referendum. But then I’m glad there was a vote, because in one day the whole country seemed to shift on its axis and there was huge outpouring of love and pride.
Do you think it’s easier for young gay men today or have things got more complicated?
I think identity and belonging are always in a tug of war in our society. If people think for themselves then they will have personal integrity no matter what time they live in.
Back when it was against the law to have sex with another man people still did it because it was two consenting adults following their instincts. We all have this internal morality but often people will try and impose theirs onto the rest of society. The important thing is that we have civil rights, that people’s bodies and minds are their own. This is why protection under the law is of upmost importance.
If life is more complicated for gay men today then it’s more complicated for everybody.
Has the casting for this production closely matched actors to the characters as you imagined them?
I think they’re probably very far from what I saw in my head when writing. Usually I take someone I know and put an idea of them into a certain character’s situation. It helps when writing to be picturing someone you know and like but it’s never really them, just an outward casing for a character in a situation.
What was important in casting was the energy, for want of a more specific word, of the actors. Each of them has a certain feel to them and it’s very clear when it doesn’t work. We’re very lucky to have two of the actors from the original run and to have found our third after auditioning nearly every young actor in London.
I think what makes this play work is that the actors are not only charming and smart, but give so much of themselves personally to make the play work.
What do you hope audiences feel when watching this play?
When we did it last year we had audiences coming out discussing whether they were a Gar, an Albert or an Anthony.
I hope they feel connected to it. I hope they laugh. I hope they cry maybe just a little bit. Most of all I’d love people to leave the theatre and want to chat late into the evening about all their own relationships.
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Source: Gay News