Baby makes three
Two by Two is a modern take on the classic bible tale Noah's Ark but with a gay twist. Playwright Dan Giovannoni talks about the play's plot, issues and themes.
Dan, what’s the story behind Two by Two?
It’s set in a futuristic Melbourne, during a great flood. An ark has been built and parts of the city are being evacuated. Carl and Jack don’t qualify for passage on the boat because they don’t meet the requirements of a ‘family’ – they’re gay, they have no kids, and they can’t procreate with each other. The play follows them in their struggle to find a way to get on board. Their home is gatecrashed by Duckie, who for her own reasons is also looking for a way to get on the boat, but has something they all want and need – a ticket, which comes in the form of a baby.
This could be a very bleak piece. Is that the case?
At its core, it’s a love story, and I think that cuts through the broader, more serious themes. It’s a bleak world, but I’m interested in what survives the bleakness. The play hones in on characters that are being tested by the most intense circumstances, and discovering what is important in those times.
The biblical story is about ‘breeding pairs’.
It’s a key theme. Carl and Jack aren’t a breeding pair (though they try very hard) and that’s what’s keeping them off the Ark. They don’t have anything they can contribute to the rebuilding of humanity – they can’t breed. That’s one of the bigger discussions in the play – attributing worth to people based on what they can offer you. It’s something I think we do a lot in this country, and that was something I really wanted to explore. When it comes down to it, no matter how accepting and lovely life might be now, at the very end of days – who would get on the ark, and who wouldn’t? And why?
How does the baby figure in the play?
The baby is this really charged little guy – in this world, a baby is a ticket onto the Ark, so as soon as he’s in the room, things start to change. People want him because they want to live, people want him because they want to be parents. I think it brings up lots of interesting issues around children, and the role children perform in a person’s life – why you choose to have them, how you come to be their parents, etc. A baby is full of hope and potential, as is the future – so in this world they’re kind of the same thing. If you believe in one, you believe in the other.
Do babies validate a relationship? Are they a measure of success?
I don’t personally think having a baby is a measure of success. I’m looking forward to having kids, but that won’t mean I’ve succeeded at anything. For Jack and Carl, a baby stands in for something else – a belief in love, life, the future. It’s tied up in their fight. They’ve struggled to have a baby, and that’s affected them, made them tougher or weaker. I don’t think you often see young men who speak about and actively pursue wanting children. I to put that on stage because that’s what I want for my life, and I don’t want anyone to think it’s not normal.
You studied at NIDA, what was that experience like?
I did the new full-time playwriting Graduate Diploma. It was a pretty intense year. There were only six of us in the course, together in a room for nine hours a day, every day – it was like a very creative, very fulfilling Big Brother, and we became very close.
It was hard sometimes – there’s no time to work, so you spend the year pretty poor, but at least everyone’s in the same boat, and no-one’s judging you when you add a can of beans to a packet soup in an attempt to turn it into a meal. I think I’m still wrestling with lots of the things we were taught – I didn’t walk out of there a ready-to-go-playwright, but I did walk out with an appetite for it. It’s not a hobby anymore, it’s my job. Two by Two was my major project – I don’t think I could have written this play at home in my spare time. It really was the most rigorous sort of training and thinking I have ever done.
Two by Two, fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, City, February 9-19, 2012. Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs.com or (03) 9662 9966.