Alex is a gay man in his 20s, so naturally he is obsessed with his body and his appearance. In a new Australian work by Ryan Henry, and presented as part of Midsumma Festival, CULT looks at the levels we will go to for the ultimate body and what the true cost of achieving this perfection is.
Henry delivers a highly committed performance full of energy, which is essential given the physical exertion required in the exercise routines. He races through dialogue matching the fast-paced environment of HIIT training centres and at times he thrashes out his speed of speech that would make Hollywood actor Jessie Eisenberg seem like a tortoise. The way he moves his body during the transitions from confessionals to rewinding to the past and returning to the present and his personal training sessions with his trainer Jason, heightens the urgency and the desperation Alex has in reaching peak physical fitness.The sound design by Jack Burmeister and the lighting design by Ashleigh Basham and Justin Heaton also come together incredibly well for these transitions, which further force Alex to dig deeper and come to a better understanding of what he is actually searching for on his fitness journey.
Henry has really got into the mind of a gay man searching for acceptance, both from himself and his community. As someone who has recently joined a group fitness centre, going six days a week and wondering when he will attain "top tier status", CULT accurately captures the thoughts and insecurities that are prevalent around fitness and gay culture, particularly one that involves having an immaculately muscled body where anything less than is often seen as failure.
For all its laughs and banging musical numbers, there are layers to CULT that go beyond the impossible chiselled physiques paraded around fitness centres and the gay community. Henry has created a fresh new work that highlights the challenges many of us have regarding self-acceptance and self-love, but he also reminds us that it is not an impossible task.
Venue: Meat Market Stales, 2 Wreckyn St, North Melbourne
Season: until 11 February | 8:00pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Bookings: Midsumma Festival
Image credit: James Reiser