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Glory Hole

Mon 13 Feb 2006 In: Performance

It's only when you've seen Glory Hole that you understand why the tagline of a "queer multimedia flesh circus" is so appropriate. This is a show that is unabashedly, unashamedly and (for the most part) masculinely queer. It's a show that combines light, space, video, live action and sound to create an experience that happens all around you. It's sexy and sensual, downright bloody cheeky in places, and definitely a circus, because just like the amusements of ancient and more recent times, there's something in this show for everyone. Never is this more apparent than in the end section of the show when the audience is permitted to sit for the first time and watch a variety of audacious original songs performed, which range in style from heavy metal to sweet ballads to grand musical numbers, the explicit content of which would no doubt have LB Mayer turning in his grave. And a bloody good job too, this show seems to say, along with a "f*** you if this is too confronting, we know you secretly like it anyway" grin. Some of the highlights: Jon Brazier slinking about in a sinister but alluring manner in a paean to sexual prowess, Tai Royal in a plaintive ditty made up almost entirely of abbreviations for popular (and not-so-popular) sex and dating terms, an exhibitionist Siaosi Mulipola waxing lyrical about his dildo collection, and Kneel Halt operating the Muppet from hell in a title song that will stay stuck in your head for weeks. But all the talented performers on display here deserve kudos for laying themselves bare in a very intimate manner. While Glory Hole has been sold on the basis that it's a "theatre of unease", with the audience being told they can't expect to sit back, relax and just perve, it is equally true that the performers are pushing themselves beyond the safety zone of conventional theatre by letting the audience into their space. Glory Hole begins by lulling you into a false sense of security. Shepherded into a long corridor, the audience sees and hears shadowy movement on the opposite side of a gauze curtain. Light, sound and projection combine to re-create the atmosphere of a park beat, but within minutes the atmosphere is broken by the arrival of the police, and the entire audience will be arrested, shepherded around another corridor and told to stand against a wall – and here the journey begins. It's tempting to say nothing, keep your eyes on the action and try not to stand out too much, but ultimately the show is a more rewarding experience if the audience interacts with the performers. They're doing their utmost to provoke you, and let's face it – how many times have you wished you could talk back at a show and couldn't? Now's your chance. On opening night, however, the audience mostly parted like the Red Sea whenever performers came near. Herded into a cage-like setting next, nasty fundie Christian rhetoric is tempered with militant queer manifesto posturing as the performers climb the walls around you. It's an oddly empowering and thrilling effect – something that this recovering Catholic wasn't expecting at all from a show which is supposed to be about cruising for casual sex. You'll hear projected stories of first-time encounters, meet jaded old 1950's queens who speak in polari and can't even stand up straight let alone act it, and hear Ronald Nelson explain why travelling through small town New Zealand with its plethora of tearooms is an altogether different experience for an American. You'll get cruised, welcomed, and creeped out by the performers – sometimes all at once. And finally, you'll be treated to an ecstatic sensual dance finale with Tai Royal and Ambrose for which “life-affirming” seems the only appropriate description. God only knows what the curious heterosexuals in the audience made of it all. I'm still working bits of it out myself. It's a brisk and brief show, coming in at just over an hour, but given the athletic demands on the performers, a lengthier show could have induced cardiac arrest. At times it borders on the pretentious, but this is balanced out with self-deprecating lashings of absurdist and/or bawdy humour. It's the sort of show that's so original that to see it only once, you'd feel like you were missing out on something. One thing's for certain, Glory Hole is a must-see. You'll laugh, you'll be titillated, you might even be intimidated – but it's a great night out. Chris Banks - 13th February 2006    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Monday, 13th February 2006 - 12:00pm

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