The spectres of covid and the lockdowns and myself recovering from covid in early Jan 2023 have hung over Feral Queer Camp for me this year. I did about 4 events, I think, and thoroughly relished the experiences but found myself short on energy and huge on covid paranoia for the entire 3 weeks.
In all of that I found moments to let rip and feel the pulse of the queer power all around me, coinciding as FQC does with a premium Vic event – the queer AF Midsumma Festival.
I was lucky enough to do the first Australian FQC in Jan/Feb 2020, just before covid killed Life, and especially cultural life, here in Melbourne. IT WAS GRAND! A sort of social freedom, expansion, joie de vivre, we have literally forgotten about. I think I saw 20 shows – or they felt like 20! – including a fabulous preview of a weird piece about Love and Flat Earthers I will never, ever forget. And a LACHLAN PHILPOTT week long WRITING WORKSHOP *swoon and gasp*
Ah, Life, I remember it well.
As we left the relative freedoms of FQC 2020 behind we fell in love with Zoom and Skype – or were forced to – and we kicked into them hard culturally – I even did a Masters in Theatre Writing in 2021 pretty much all on Zoom BUT Now. NOT Now!!!!! I struggle with Zoom-ing except for medical appointments and access for Deaf buddies etc. It brings back the nightmare…
But here we are in 2023 and I fucking BEGGED to do FQC because even though I was recovering from illness and felt like death, I WANTED, NEEDED, DESIRED queer show space, queer talking and plotting space and the dreams of our own queer creative hubs – utopias even – where we can say and make whatever TF we want. I did a day of Jo Clifford’s writing workshop with a whole new and diverse bunch of young, queer, trans and gender non-conforming, passionate arty folk who BLEW MY MIND. The group was HUGE, over 20 or so? and we babbled and bubbled over and shared stories and built the fires of queer ferment from the off. I think it was all about story? and being offered a story and adapting it, but I got very into the crowd and the mega buzz that was that circle of people, because it’s been ages since strangers could meet in spaces – and queer space at that! – so I’m not sure of the overall direction of the workshop itself LOLS – you had to be there!
Then I got sick again. Not covid itself, but post covid.
I crawled out of that headachey dank hole in time to do the next QFC meetup at the splendid new Pride Centre over there in lovely and wild St Kilda. The team! Steve looked jet-lagged as Hell, kind of like an English mole who’d woken up in Cairns in January, while the rest of us were in full-on, Summer-y, sweaty, chatty, happy mode. I ran into Steve first, because except for Alyson and Meta, these were all NEW PEOPLE! Yay! After a few years of lockdown it’s exciting to hear people and talk and discuss and the best thing is that we are all kind of talky, mouthy, expressive folk so there was a lot to take in and throw around queer culture wise. Then Steve and Alyson suggested we discuss, What is Queer Theatre? I’m trying to remember what we came up with THEN as this question intrigued all of us and got developed and stretched over the next weeks.
Then I was off to see Asphyxia/Bec Matthews/Sarah Ward’s brand new show, Stranger than Usual, at the awesome site, Abbotsford Convent and it was totally an eye and ear-opener as it was the premiere of an Australian first – an Aussie Deaf music composer’s work, in collaboration with non-Deaf people, to make music that Deaf people could appreciate, a brilliant concept and quite the technological feat as not only did the experienced musical team have to work with vastly different tonal and tech boundaries, but they engineered haptics as vibrational forces moving through a few key seats in time to the beats, and a section of the floor. The whole thing was a marvel of access, featuring the vibes, a hearing loop, live Auslan, captions and signed Auslan on video, as well as relaxed seating and in I’m guessing a nod to mobility and pandemic safety, it was easy to get around the theatre as it wasn’t packed out with seats.
My FQC team felt the night was short on joy and narrative, and like the whole score needed more work and editing. I reluctantly agree, swept up and knocked over by the creative originality – I only know one Deaf composer personally, Irish-born Deaf composer playwright Ailís Ní Ríain, who has a huge repertoire, and of course there was Beethoven in advancing age, so for me Stranger than Usual is a wildly innovative, experimental and unusual work. The audio reminded me of Nico and The Velvet Underground tracks. The production team did also comment on the strictures covid had placed on everyone’s availability, so here’s hoping this piece continues to roll on and get bigger and intense and wonderful. I MCed the live Q + A after, which was a HOOT. I got to ask questions and get the performers even more love.
My next week or so was not great healthwise. Suddenly the weekend talk fest was on with Midsumma at the spacious and glittery Edge, part of the heart of the city Fed Square complex, right on the Yarra River. First up that day was QFC luminaries Alyson and Peta Murray, and other guests, with I think, Queer Performance – What is it? More here.
That day I was wrestling a 16yo Maltese terrier on my scooter so I don’t recall a lot of the discussion – but that could be my post covid brain too. Luckily I was on the 2nd panel of the day myself so I do remember more of that one. In a phalanx of queer culture stars (Wesley Enoch is God), we were charged with thrashing out The Future of Queer Performance, and we flogged it. Great panel.
Maybe you had to be there – but they did film it so I’m hoping we can provide a link at some point. Essentials – queer, disabled, POC, FN creatives are NOT the problem – our cultural industries are, where our stories get stolen, where a small number of ‘marginalised’ creatives might benefit from the largesse of the arts hierarchies. Revolution is required and solidarity was called for – and that was perhaps only my take-away but I really mean it.
Was not great healthwise again until the penultimate day where I got to feature a rant on the magical and unique nexus/es between disability/Deaf and queerness and performance to the FQC cohort. A small number of us had survived until the end and we had an intense and fruitful session. Here are a couple of moments:
Invented introduction to Kath Duncan – read by Alyson
‘Kath Duncan comes from a planet where every animal has one arm and one leg, or less. Kath’s planet is soft and bouncy and malleable and mostly covered with water. There is no Winter. Her people are amphibious, living with other sea and land creatures, hunting with and against each other depending on the seasons and the tides. Just last year Kath’s people took a long space voyage on a ship layered inside with bouncy foam padding for sliding and rolling. Suddenly they were hit by a deathly meteoroid storm. Their ship cracked into a mess and everything flew off. Kath Duncan woke up here with all of us staring at her.’
‘Perhaps the most significant similarity between [disability and queerness] …. is their radical stance toward concepts of normalcy; both argue adamantly against the compulsion to observe norms of all kinds (corporeal, mental, sexual, social, cultural, subcultural, etc.)’
From Carrie Sandahl, ‘Queering the Crip or Cripping the Queer? Intersections of Queer and Crip Identities in Solo Autobiographical Performance,’ The Muse Project, 2003 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/40804
You simply have GOT TO WATCH:
The glorious Katherine Araniello (SickBitchCrips) parody of the London 2012 Paralympics video, Meet the Superhumans:
Sins Invalid, 2020, doco behind 3 Hearts production: 28.16-38.36 great questions to cam then Nomy Lamm dance
Uk performer Liz Carr – play Liz Carr, Liz and Jo Wheelchair Wedding Dance 4.57 – best bit at 7.48 onwards
US Lisa Bufano amazing dance with wooden table leg prostheses
Stella Young, 2014, ‘I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much’ TED Talk 09062014, dur: 9/06ss
And via Steve, STUNNING David Hoyle/Liz Carr clip which perfectly illustrates the beauty, joy and un-earnestness of the banging queer/disability/performance nexus –
After my FQC debut, we as a cohort thrashed the question: What is Queer Theatre and came up with:
- Sex and the Body
- Gender Disruption
- The Unexpected
- The presence of the Makers – the production team. We didn’t quantify this but a guess would be Queer Writer, Director, Producer, Dramaturg, key performance team etc. Critical mass or majority queer makers, actors, techos
- The Absence of loungeroom heteronormative family dramatic tedium where no one says what they really think via social niceties blah blah then the lady/girl/somebody dies
- Experiments in form and content, while also interrogating the conventional theatre hierarchies of power and prestige and the conflicts and challenges arising from these
- Boundary pushing
- Sets and aesthetic campness
- All up against economics and the capacity of queer folk to afford access to training, education, stagecraft, funding, venues, corporate support, expertise, credibility, kudos etc
(Btw by this time Steve looked totally like an Aussie.)
I HAD A FQC RIOT, DESPITE BEING TEMPORARILY DEAD UNDER COVID FOR THREE YEARS and finally quite sicky.
For me, FQC is a series of dynamic AND AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE spaces to meet, to share and to debate the pressing arts + culture issues of our time outside of our own rehearsal spaces and the academy, while bringing our own queer rehearsal spaces and queer academics and academic knowledges with us. We make history when we create queer spaces for art and rage and love and conflicts and solidarities and asking the interesting questions, for opening ourselves up to new experiences and new people while sharing and eating on queer common ground. I could say LOTS MORE, I may come back to here to throw more in. I LOVED IT. I WANT MORE.