03/06/2010 at 3:51 pm 12 comments


Bay 20, Carriageworks, June 2010
presented by Performance Space

It’s one of those unfortunate buzzwords that’s been popping up recently to describe something that’s nothing new. Men interacting is hardly a recent social phenomena. Also the notion of ‘romance’ being an element of brotherly love is pretty anachronistic to me. I don’t think it’s apt to describe a close male friendship as anything akin to romantic. Romance goes sour. Romance is painful and full of illusion. Romance is sexy!

I am willing to admit, going into this show; the title irks me. Because when I think of my close mates – I think of them as brothers, yes – but you don’t love them like you might fall in love with someone sexually. There is a boundary, it’s clearly defined. So I’m glad to say that the minds behind this show acknowledge such a thing, perhaps even using the title as a sardonic wink at the new-age absurdity of such a word as ‘bromance‘. The exploration of where this boundary lies is just one element of the work, and there’s a lot of territory covered. Some of it is quite dark, some simply a poetic and visual expression of two minds and bodies in tune. There’s a lot to like here, it’s food for thought, but rather than try to describe the show, I think I’ll just talk about what I was feeling and thinking whilst watching it.

“Sometimes brothers fight”

It’s a line from The Shield, which is one of my favourite naturalistic takes on the dynamics of brotherhood; the highs and lows of masculinity have an energy that can be simultaneously upsetting and comforting. The other night, at the Sydney Writer’s Festival I was catching up with an old mate. We’ve had our ups and downs, some falling out from time to time but it was back to the usual easy self. We got drunk and watched some poetry. Stupid bastard got messy, he’s been in a bit of a bad way lately and can put away the grog; so we try and look after him, but you can’t tell him how to behave. At the end of the night, we’re all saying goodbyes and I made some provocative slight on his character. Something like “seeya, bitch”. I forget exactly what I said, but he turned around and punched me in the face. “You hit like a girl” I said. Which he had. I was well aware that he pulled the punch, but continued to push his buttons, like I wanted him to hit me properly

Later, I thought about why I had done this. It comes down to the love I have for him, and how watching him drink himself to the grave is not something I relish. So maybe getting into a situation where we punch each other around might bring out some home truths about who we are, really. I know I could use a bit of a slap in the face now & then. But that fucker never listens! So in my strange drunken logic it made perfect sense to get him to fight me. In retrospect perhaps that sort of thing should be done sober, in the boxing ring; not 1AM on Oxford st on a Saturday night… but I digress. What’s interesting is how Bromance manages to capture that dark intimacy of violence. Whereas; most violence is and should be abhorred, it’s a difficult and paradoxical thing to recognise that sometimes violence can be an act of love.

“Don’t call me a faggot not unless you are a friend”

It’s that song by Joe Jackson. “Real Men”. There’s a line here, and I’m all across it. Blokes don’t say “I love you” to each other. At least, not very much. Instead we make lewd comments questioning each other’s sexuality. You’d never say it to someone you didn’t know very well, but it’s a sign of male bonding when we’re comfortable saying something like (at the risk of using up a line I was saving for dialogue): “the sperm bank called- your shipment is ready”. Don’t mistake this for homophobia. Real men couldn’t give a shit if you’re gay, straight, trans or bi. It’s more about acknowledging how that man is one of the few people we know who can cop an insult, because we know it means nothing. And we know that implying someone is gay is hardly insulting them anyway – but that’s beside the point. If my mate were gay – we’d be just as likely to shrewdly imply that he loves the clit. It’s a way of saying “I know you”. Sophisticated, huh?

Sisters and wives are off limits though. (There’s that line again. You don’t cross it.) And it was in one of the funnier sections of this play that lead me to ponder the gender gap on this stuff. It’s no secret that women are often vexed by the behaviour of men (and vice-versa); but during a sequence expanding on the strange and complex rituals of the handshake (a rich vein of history here), it dawned on me that the women had started laughing at this much earlier than the men. As a male audience member watching, at first I was simply appreciative of the energy put into the ‘shake, but the women in the audience found it hilarious (which it was) perhaps in a different way than I did. That maybe half the audience were watching a different show to me. I wondered if there was a similar show in a parallel universe about sisterhood; and whether I might find it baffling, or educational… Then I thought about the kind of language we use to describe a “boy’s club”, or “boy’s night” and the various associations that come with it in comparison to the women’s equivalent. I know there’s a whole host of historical reasons why this is the case; I’m no stranger to gender politics – but it seems a quite recent thing that these elements of male energy are being explored and expressed through theatrical forms in a safe way. Witness This Kind Of Ruckus performed last year from Version 1.0. Altogether a different beast to Bromance – I would hesitate to compare them in detail other than the honesty about male energy they have brought to the stage.

Of course Bromance is strictly about male-to-male relationships, and it has an easy, laconic feel to it, which is appropriate. Although the difficulties of male behaviour are dealt with too; isolation and violence in particular – the overall sense is one of positivity and joy in mateship. Kudos to the team for a well thought out and presented production, from the excellent sound design, direction, choreography and performances it’s clearly an ensemble work from the lads. You wouldn’t have it any other way.

BROMANCE plays until Saturday June 5; featuring Alisdair MacIndoe, Adam Synnott, Lee Serle and Jay Robinson

Entry filed under: Dance/ Physical Theatre, Inside Theatre REVIEWS, New Work, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

CHOICES, PROMISES, LUCK Do You Want To Know About The Future?

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. James Waites  |  03/06/2010 at 4:16 pm

    Nice piece of work bro. I shake yr hand…

    • 2. anvildrops  |  03/06/2010 at 5:23 pm

      thanks Jim. *fist bump

  • […] I saw a really neat show the other night at Carriageworks called Bromance. It was a dance piece and looked really good, full of surprises, skirting round the expected cliches except when it was looking at the cliches. Since I don’t know how to write about dance I suggest you read this excellent response on 5thWall. […]

  • 4. G.A.S. Guys  |  11/06/2010 at 6:29 am

    I think this video says it all.

    • 5. anvildrops  |  11/06/2010 at 10:36 am

      ok i’m not touching that one.

      so to speak…

  • 6. derek  |  11/06/2010 at 1:50 pm

    the word ‘gay’ just has this negative tonal baggage, equating it with weak. what about homo-erotic? some of those images are pretty sexual… albeit mixed in with a lot of less charged stuff. i even feel turned on. maybe i’m christian? omg…

    sorry for not commenting on the review. i enjoyed the style. especially liked the anecdote about inciting violence after too much poetry & beer.

  • 7. James Waites  |  11/06/2010 at 2:11 pm

    I reckon my pix are better x

  • 8. James Waites  |  11/06/2010 at 4:50 pm

    I thought those YouTube pix were piss weak – gay or straight or just plain drunk!

  • 9. anvildrops  |  15/06/2010 at 4:55 pm

    the whole video is quite weak, and confused! I almost didn’t allow it to be posted because it’s kind of homophobic. but then I figured it is on topic, so who am I to dispute their strange fear driven outlook? oh wait, it’s my blog

    the thing is, some of the stuff they list is clearly gay! like “kissing my man”. so I will call that gay. and without loathing.

    on the other hand, if you guys want to go skinnydipping together that’s fine too. and that could be seen as gay, or not… but what’s wrong is when you make others feel like they’re sinning, just because they got a stiffy. i’m not sure repressing is a healthy attitude long-term.

    Derek, I disagree, gay doesn’t hold any negative context for me. it’s an objective term to describe a person, like ‘Asian’… not entirely necessary, but occasionally helpful đŸ™‚

    and James, naturally your pictures are better. they’re from your personal collection, right?

    for context, the video was posted by representatives of this blog, make of it what you will:

  • 10. James Waites  |  15/06/2010 at 5:12 pm

    A website for Straight Christian Men who enjoy Skinny-Dipping – hey i love that – i thought the video they put up was way gay – didn’t count as bromance – not to my way of thinking.

    None of the guys I had sex with at boarding school were gay – hey rugby league scholarship guys – are you kidding?

    You can pick the straight ones easy coz they won’t kiss. Anything else but that …

  • 11. James Waites  |  15/06/2010 at 5:16 pm

    Oh I just googled ”hot straight guys holding hands’ and the images flowed like a river

  • 12. bRoMaNcE – a gUy tHiNg  |  23/09/2013 at 6:23 pm

    […] I saw a really neat show the other night at Carriageworks called Bromance. It was a dance piece and looked really good, full of surprises, skirting round the expected cliches except when it was looking at the cliches. Since I don’t know how to write about dance I suggest you read this excellent response on 5thWall. […]


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