James Ironside Stroud
Dramaturg / Sound Design & Composition
Virginia Proud, Tansy Gorman
*3rd year Masters of Design for Performance student
VCA Production Academic Staff
Sarah Austin, Andrew Bailey, Jo Briscoe, Genevieve Cizevskis, Emily Collette,
David Harrod, Chris Mead, Georgina Naidu, Chris Nolan, Richard Robert, Leon Salom
Genevieve Cizevskis, Casey Corless, Tansy Gorman, Hugo Gutteridge, Nicola Ingram,
Caitlin Johnston, Rebecca Morton, Natalie Petrellis, Olivia Pimpinella, Leon Salom, Ash Walwyn
In promiscuous/cities, Lachlan Philpott composes a symphony of a single night in San Francisco – utopian dream destination of queers and misfits.
Lachlan has made a work for a large cast, orchestrating multiple narrative lines and conveying in electrifying symbiosis how the thoughts and words of these people and indeed the people themselves dance around and between each other.
The themes come tumbling out in rich polyphony, but are crystal clear: above all the losses of gentrification, the chasm between the rich and the poor in cities like San Francisco, lost neighbourhoods, lost histories, lost corner shops, lost lesbian bars, while at the same time this is replaced by a rapid-fire onslaught of social media filling our visual frames, our mobile screens, the sonic world around us. The relentless monosyllables of social media’s like, love, share, heart punctuate all the lives in the urban world we encounter, producing a constant, parallel rhythm that is the underlying soundtrack and heartbeat of this city, fissling in the air as the characters move through it. This is a world brought into being by verbal language but, along with the meanings those words carry, is an affective dramaturgy that relies utterly on timing. In promiscuous/cities the language comes in waves, pauses and then flows again; the last thing you would want to do onstage is tie it down.
In a way, of course, the central protagonist of promiscuous/cities is the city itself, and it’s no coincidence that so much of our contemporary culture, including social media, emerges from the tech giants of San Francisco and Silicon Valley that have produced such a gulf between the digitally literate and those that literacy leaves behind. At the same time, San Francisco also stands as a mythical placeholder for any major city in the world.
It is so strange, but also so strangely fitting, to be staging the Australian premiere of this sparkling Australian play in Covid times – working initially on zoom, email, Milanote to try to get started on a play whose rhythms and pleasures really only come to life in space and time together. Then working in masks and composing a choreography of 12 bodies and 12 delightful bollards that can’t get too close has been a Rubik’s cube challenge – requiring the collaboration of everyone involved, and fiendish tracking by the cast! We’ll now perform to a tiny audience that won’t even include our Sydney-based playwright.
And yet, this cast and team have worked furiously, creatively, diligently and with passion to realise a vision. I’m immensely proud of the commitment to a production that began with us feeling so hopeless but has ended up being such a rich process. I cannot thank the cast enough for their commitment to such a fiendishly complex play and putting their trust in me in what must, at times, have seemed a strange process. I have also been blessed with a creative and production team that far surpassed any expectation of what was possible in these circumstances – my heartfelt thanks to them too.
- Alyson Campbell
What is so compelling about Lachlan Philpott’s writing is its resistance to letting us sit in one place for too long. In promiscuous/cities, lives and moments are layered on top of one another in beautiful – and sometimes messy – simultaneity. They collide, and sometimes in the collision find surprising harmonies and resonances in duets, trios and quartets. Lachlan’s writing has a remarkable ability to conjure a scene or mood in very few words, and bring us out again just as quickly. This gives promiscuous/cities a sense of fluidity that we might recognise as queer, where boundaries between moments, places and identities suddenly seem less rigid and we see glimpses of other possibilities or ways of being. It allows us, too, to encounter the queer memories of San Francisco – a place long known as ‘the gay capital of America’ – and interrogate the mythology behind it, even as we celebrate it.
It has been an utter delight to work on this script both as a dramaturg and sound designer, which seems fitting for a text that works so sonically and musically; where words are used almost as much for their rhythms as for their meaning. It is as much a play to be spoken as a piece of music to be orchestrated. A work that relies so heavily on rhythm is a considerable challenge – it is a delicate balance that even one misplaced ‘like’ can topple! But this creative team has embraced the text’s complexity with true musicianship.
promiscuous/cities is a text that has it all – not only it is formally innovative, but its content resonates with our current moment. What better time for a play that so articulately explores connection and loneliness, making us think about how to navigate the constantly shifting landscapes, places and moments we find ourselves in?
- Meta Cohen