Dr Gertrude Glossip: School Daze
Dear blaze readers, how was your Festival and Fringe? I trust that you overindulged! The weather was gorgeously clement, especially considering February and March can be such ‘scorchers’.
We frequented Writers’ Week and found the new design pleasing. With imposing female sculpture as backdrop the West Stage, set within the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens, had an almost spiritual ambience. We loved the azure canopies; and dappled sunlight filtering through Plane trees…positively chiaroscuro!
We attended one of the ‘big ones’: the interview of gay English author Alan Hollinghurst with ABC RN presenter Michael Cathcart. I’m always fascinated to see writers ‘in the flesh’. Alan was rather restrained and nervous in style, interesting given the quite racy tone of some of his writing. He posited that ‘the gay novel’, such as his first work The Swimming Pool Library (1988), was important at that time. However conditions and attitudes have so improved that perhaps it’s now passé, as evidenced by his latest work The Stranger’s Child, a novel with gay characters rather than a gay novel. Hmm!
It’s illuminating to learn more about ‘the writer as person’. An only child, as a seven-year-old Hollinghurst was dispatched to boarding school, an experience he enjoyed. Cathcart indulged in light-hearted banter, suggesting that boys’ boarding schools must be such fun for gay youth. Both writer and the audience seemed to warm to this light-hearted, almost flippant approach, but it set off alarm bells for me.
Despite more accepting attitudes towards homosexuality, I suspect many queer youths still experience difficulty accepting their sexuality and that the schoolyard is a place of pain rather than pleasure. I was a little forgiving as I assumed that here were two gay men in conversation. Imagine my surprise when my research revealed that Cathcart is a married man. In this light his flippancy seems ill-advised, if not downright ill-informed!
My sentiments were reinforced on seeing the beautifully crafted and movingly rendered Fringe performance of The Ballad of the Unbeatable Heart by Richard Fry. I’m sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s a powerful reminder of the vulnerability of queer youth where every day there may be a suicide. This is surely one for the likes of Cathcart!
Speaking of writers who are gay, David Marr’s dissertation on Patrick White was erudite and entertaining. It helped one appreciate The Ham Funeral; a wonderful production and performance by Amanda Muggleton; her Mrs Lusty was ever so busty! We were disappointed and underwhelmed by Bernstein’s Mass and found Van Durme’s Gardenia a bit of a curate’s egg.
Dear readers, we’re seeing March out ‘across the ditch’ as we did last year. It will be interesting to observe the NZ scene without the zing of the Asia-Pacific Outgames. I shall report.