A sangria safe space: This Bitter Earth at Theatre Works.

A sangria safe space: This Bitter Earth at Theatre Works.Credit:Matthew Predny / Theatre Works

Sydney isn’t a place renowned for its subtlety, though, and on entering the theatre to find a solitary actor (Matthew Predny) bopping on a bare stage to Kylie Minogue’s Locomotion, I thought the show might too gay even for me.

When the initial monologue began – peppered with remorselessly self-dramatising verbal tics and stereotyped mannerisms – my fears grew.

Yet under all that obviousness, something discreet and complex emerges: the tale of a country teenager in Sydney for the first time, starting with a wide-eyed account of a homophobic incident and wending through city streets to a sexual encounter recounted with disturbing comic force.

Other scenes are emotionally volatile, and resist the expected with a sardonic smile.

A potentially schmaltzy gay marriage proposal meets cynical, half-mocking rejection as two lovers (Michael Cameron and Alexander Stylianou) blend familiarity and contempt in their own peculiar way.

Three young women (Elle Mickel, Ariadne Sgouros and Sasha Simon) engage in girl-talk at a spin class – a portrait of intimate savagery in leg warmers and Lycra, with a potentially abusive lesbian relationship, and other unspoken pain, looming behind the jaded camaraderie.

And a queer drinking game called “Sangria Safe Space” captures the pleasures and pains of finding your tribe: Millennials in a self-created PC-free zone flirt with wild exhibitionism and explicit sex stories, as an introverted wallflower looks on, and eventually learns to join in.

Edwards needs to work on structure. This Bitter Earth is more than an exercise but doesn’t quite hang together as a whole. Yet the dialogue has a realistic frisson, and Riley Spadaro’s direction helps to hone performances that are funny, poignant and true.



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