Article Title:Inside "The Cottage": A Very Queer League
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:20th February 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1128
Text:Wellington actors Kate Fitzoy and Cooper Amai have taken inspiration from the local gay scene and the cult British comedy League of Gentlemen for their Fringe Festival theatre piece The Cottage. Fey twinks, butch dykes, pregnant lesbians, sock puppets who live in the toilet, and a parking warden – these are but a few snapshots from the forthcoming Wellington Fringe Festival theatre piece The Cottage, which runs for four nights at the Bats Theatre from February 24. Kate Fitzroy (27) Cooper Amai (23) are the brains and performing brawn behind the show. Both have experience in theatre, but The Cottage is their first stab at performing something original. They met only six months ago, at a cafe where they both worked. "We didn't really know each other that well," Fitzroy remembers. "We were both actors and both gay, so we said let's do a show. Initially we weren't going to do a show about being gay, we were just going to put on a play together where we had lots of characters and monologues, then we came up with a concept of our own and it just went from there." That idea became The Cottage, a night in the life of the characters who inhabit Tongue-In-Cheek, a local gay nightclub. On this particular night, there's a drag competition on, and the city is packed out with rugby fans, fresh from an All Blacks match. Into this fictional club, which Fitzroy and Amai have based upon their experiences at a real-life local gay haunt (hmm, I wonder which one?), comes parking warden Gaylene. "We go on a journey with her as she starts to feel more comfortable with her sexuality," says Fitzroy. "Then we focus on another character, a drag queen, who becomes friends with Gaylene." Fitzroy and Amai play around half a dozen characters each in the show, who appear on the scene as the story progresses – some male, some female and some in-between. Paths will cross, and eventually most of them end up in the toilet – it's a metaphor, they say, for how society sees gay culture. "We thought it was a good analogy, the way society likes to keep things behind closed doors sometimes," says Amai. "So we thought we'd chuck 'em in the toilet, it's quite disgusting, we can play with the toilet humour..." This toilet humour includes the STI sock puppets, who live in the bog. "We didn't originally think we'd want to touch on safe sex or STIs, but one way that we managed to get around that was turn them into sock puppets," Amai says. Fitzroy explains further: "We've approached this in a really comic kind of dirty, crazy way, so it's not all in your face, deathly and serious. But at the same time, we're trying to say yeah, people see this as a gay thing and it isn't necessarily. We're trying to show this is a universal thing also." Although the experiences may be universal, the characters are intended to be very specific, rooted in Wellington's gay culture. The actors built characters based on people they'd met, then did some further research to flesh them out. "We got a general feel of what people recognise as, for example a lesbian – what were the characteristics that make people says 'she's a lesbian'... e.g. she has her hair short, she walks like she's got went away and did a little bit of research on it, and then also to make these characters more realistic for ourselves, we've been adding accents to them," Amai explains. The staging is minimalistic, with only characterisation and perhaps the odd prop to differentiate between characters, similar in style to the original League of Gentlemen stage shows. "That's pretty much what we're going for," says Fitzroy. "Our characters begin and are displayed to the audience as stereotypes, then you get under the layers and they're real people – they're people the audience will be able to identify with." It's a show they describe by turns as playful, crazy, daydreamy, and sweet. "Some of the characters fall in love," Fitzroy says. "There's some nice moments. But on the whole, it's a comedy. We want to make people laugh." WHAT: The Cottage WHERE: Bats Theatre, Wellington WHEN: Feb 24 – 27, 9pm / Tickets $15, bookings at Bats Chris Banks - 20th February 2006    
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