Member explores a dark chapter in Sydney’s history through a confronting lens
Sydney’s gay hate crimes of the 80s and 90s are the focus of this one-man-show by Ben Noble.
With the Scott Johnson inquest making headlines and SBS’s documentary and drama series Deep Water stirring up memories, the gay hate crimes which took place in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s have once again been brought into sharp focus for the community.
While much has been said about the victims of these horrific murders, which at last count may include up to 80 unsolved cases on the NSW record books, Ben Noble’s latest play, Member, approaches this grim period from a different angle: looking at the crimes through the eyes of the perpetrator.
Noble says he became obsessed with this dark period in Sydney’s history when he discovered the story of the 1988 death of Scott Johnson, which was originally dismissed by police as a suicide. Johnson’s naked body was found at the base of a cliff in Manly close to the site of a known gay beat. The more Noble dug into the crime, the angrier he became and the more deaths he uncovered. Pretty soon he realised other writers might also find inspiration in the stories and he commissioned 10 to write material in response to the cases. That was three years ago and now Noble is bringing the fruits of their labor to the stage for Member.
Noble tells SX he wasn’t sure what they were creating in the beginning.
“All I knew was that it was a story that needed to be told,” he explains. “It began as the victim’s story, then as mine, now it’s from a viewer of the crimes. A member of one of those gangs. I kept going back to one question when I read the original source material: If you were a part of this crime – how could you live with yourself? And so that’s the story we have explored more.”
Noble believes the play provides a vehicle to reflect on Sydney’s checkered relationship with the gay community.
“I think to really move forward, we must understand our past. Over the past few years, with Australia’s push for marriage equality or the change in the Safe Schools program, even though the support has been vocal, the level of opposition has been ripe with hatred and homophobia,” he says.
“The louder our voice has become, the more vulgar is the voice against. For me it felt that level of homophobia was festering away under the surface for years, waiting for the platform to raise its voice once again.
“These stories need to be heard. Regardless of how hard they are to hear.”
Member is on February 21 - March 4, at Blood Moon Theatre, 24 Bayswater Road, Potts Point. Book at eventbrite.com.au
[image] Ben Noble in Member. PHOTO: LUKE CADDEN