Monday, 10 September 2018

Twink Ascending - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Bears, otters, pups, cubs, wolves, daddies, jocks, twunks and twinks. These are just a few terms to describe the type of gay men in the world. It's enough to cause a lot of confusion and uncertainty as to where exactly you fit in. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Andy Johnston is taking a look at what it means to be a gay man in the modern world with his solo show Twink Ascending. Told through cabaret, drag, physical theatre, spoken word, dance and song, this experimental piece is unapologetic in its exploration of what it’s like to be a queer man in this day and age, which is something that even Johnston himself continues to question.

"I don’t think I know the answer to this and that’s why I made this show, to find out who he is. But I do think every modern gay man shares the desire to be seen and heard and therefore respected and accepted.
Standing in the way of that desire is a real pressure to blend in to the traditional ideals of a heteronormative, masculine lifestyle," he says. "I feel that every day coming from the media, the government, social media and even guys I date! I’ve chosen not to give in to that, and I’m seeing others making that decision more and more. It is an exciting wave of queer pride and courage to witness. So I guess I have a theory that the modern gay man is someone who is dipping his/her/their toe into the fluidity of change and I’m excited to see what happens when we all jump in."
 
While this idea of being a gay man in modern society is quite broad and can be particularly overwhelming to tackle, Johnston has decided to narrow thing down with his show. "I’ve decided to focus my explorations around the themes of belonging and connection and the relationship with self. I look at issues relating to masculinity, social media, dating app culture, body image, shame, mental health, sex and love," he explains. "It is all viewed through my lens so it is a very personal, intimate and honest look into these things." 

With plenty of shows being created dealing with queer identity and belonging, Johnston has been very clear with his approach in ensuring his show remains distinctive, and offering a unique outlook on the issues. "When gay men are given a chance to express themselves in the form of cabaret or theatre, it generally goes one of two ways. The first is where Art is used as therapy, which is when the work comes from a place of wanting to express trauma, pain and struggle. This is valid as I think Art is a way to make meaning and to understand life but you end up with a show full of intense, emotional content. Wanting the audience to understand is often confused with making the audience feel and that is when they disconnect especially around the heavy stuff,' Johnston says. "The second is when the audience is bombarded with show tunes, sequins and sass, again a valid choice but it is often void of any substance. It’s joyful and camp but the audience forgets about it once they walk out the door."

"With Twink Ascending I am as honest as I can with my writing and my performance. It’s about being human, I just happen to be a queer human so that intrinsically colours my story. The campness is built in, not packed on top for effect. I am leading with truth and a curiosity for the human search for connection. Twink Ascending navigates through the light and dark in a way that entertains as well as leaves a lasting impression."

Despite this, Johnston is aware that there is much to learn from devising and performing his own show and that Twink Ascending will continue to change and evolve. "This show is teaching me more about myself as an artist and human each time I go back to it. I don’t think it will be 'done' for a while, and when that day comes I will know that I’ve learnt all I can about myself and the show, and it will be time to move on to the next one. Unless it’s a smash hit and it tours around the world darling! Then it will never be finished!"

While Johnston would be more than happy with worldwide adoration, there is something bigger than hoping his audience finds him fabulous after watching Twink Ascending. "While I hope they walk away with a deeper understanding of who I am, I’d love for them to reflect on their own life and they way they communicate and connect with the people they come in contact with," he says.

Five Quick Ones

1. Art is
truth.
2. If you had to become an animal, which would you choose and why?
 

A Blue Whale! It is the largest mammal on the planet, like what a title to have!  It is the closet thing to a dinosaur and I love dinosaurs. It is also a solo traveller and I am such an introvert so being a big whale causing the ocean by myself would be fab! Also all I ever want is to have David Attenbourgh narrate my life, so yes, it’s big Blue Whale for me!
3. What song would you play on repeat to torture someone?
 

Guy Sebastian's "Angels Brought Me Here".
4. How long would you survive in a zombie apocalypse?
 

You know I actually think I’d last a while because I’m quite resourceful...nah, who am I kidding! I wouldn't last a second!
5. It just isn't a Fringe Festival experience without
being overwhelmed by the creative process, humbled by the supportive community and inspired by amazing artists and their work!

Show Information

Venue:
The Meat Market, 3 Blackwood St, North Melbourne.
Season: 
26 - 29 September | 8:30pm
Length:
60 minutes
Tickets:
$26 Full | $22.50 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

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