“I’m not gay. I’m not full blown gay. I’m just… in Sydney”
Even though it’s only just over a decade old, Tommy Murphy’s Strangers In Between already feels like a bit of a period piece. In a similar way to Beautiful Thing, it depicts a version of metropolitan gay life that has already – in many ways – been left behind by the fast-changing pace of our society. From Scruff to Grindr to the depths of the internet, being gay is just different these days.
Which is not to say that Strangers In Between is fatally dated, it just operates in a kind of pseudo-space. It’s set in the sketchy King’s Cross area of Sydney where 16-year-old Shane has run away to from his hometown of Goulburn and got himself a job in a bottlo (off-license). There, his boyish charms attract the attentions of customers such as the built Will and the older Peter, who help him to find his feet and eventually, to deal with the past he’s fled.
Adam Spreadbury-Mayer’s production is attractively done in Becky-Dee Trevenen’s clever set design, with three, well four, strong performances. Roly Botha nails the awkward charm of a young man still finding himself, Stephen Connery-Brown’s Peter transcends the perhaps too camp writing for his character to find a real loving depth, and Dan Hunter doubles effectively as Shane’s love interest and brother, both aiding his way to a better understanding of himself.
There’s a sweetness to Murphy’s writing that is at times appealing – the notion of building your own family, surrounding yourself with a community who will let you be you is one which is always important to hold onto. There is however also a bit of tension between real life and this almost fairytale-like fiction – the rough nature of King’s Cross is never sufficiently acknowledged and Shane’s naïveté is overly done, making it hard to believe he would prove so irresistible as lover or friend. Strangers In Between remains well-staged and well-constructed though, an ideal play for the month of Gay Pride.