My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Fear and Desire, and People are Horrible Wherever You Go

People are Horrible Wherever You Go is a kind of classic comic drag play influenced by old films and elements of the plotline from the a famous opera,” explains creator/actor David Bateman.  “The performances by David Roche and myself utilize a kind of hybrid drag where we are obviously men playing lesbian women and we make no attempt to pass. It relates to the kind of drag work both David Roche and l have used in our solo performances and our lives over the past 20 years.”

People are Horrible Wherever You Go is the closing act of an evening of theatrical bon bons entitled Fear and Desire (and the Whole Damn Thing). “It’s a really diverse evening of plays and solo performances by younger emerging artists and older established artists from the queer community,” says Bateman. “Hope Thompson saw the early production of People Are Horrible Wherever You Go and loved it. When she thought of producing her new play Stiff, a queer murder mystery set against the discovery of a Viagra-like substance, she approached us and suggested we do the two plays as a single evening, with some solo performances from younger emerging artists as part of the overall evening, so the overall event has a real inter-generational tone to it. Stiff also has very strong elements of a kind of nostalgia for older forms of film, especially film noir, and the characters and the plot in Hope's play, although very different and more naturalistic in a sense, are also motivated by forms of fear and desire around sexuality and gender identity.”  

The evening’s host and “tour guide” Keith Cole has no fears of sexuality or gender identity, “My role as host for the evening, a very tiny role actually but I am hoping to have some fun with it and play around with ideas of love, fear, desire, Nicole Kidman, Jayne Mansfield and Cynthia Nixon. Ideas of longing, shortness of breath and David Bowie lyrics. I am really not sure where all this will take me - the audience will have to tell me. I am open to anything.”

Cole raves about Thompson, “She is a pro. Über talented and no one writes a female character like Hope. Her voice is unique.” Of course he also has opinions on the entire ensemble, “The Davids are a duo to behold. Toronto should be applauding these two. Talented men who have done and seen it all. They have peaked and the have valley'ed and then peaked again [sings] ‘Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough.’ Noel Coward referred to something called 'a Daddy's renaissance' in that basically as a young person you are hot and work all the time and then there is a point in your professional life in theatre, or showbiz in general, where you are not wanted. And then when you come close to 60, or past 60, and all of a sudden you are hot again and people cannot get enough of you. I think this is very true. Noel Coward went through this in his own life and career.”

Bateman appreciates Cole’s assessment, “This version of People are Horrible Wherever You Go is a re-imagining and we have approached the characters in a somewhat different way since we're both 15 years older. The dynamic is quite different and some of the lines and romantic entanglements encountered by the two women take on a very different tone - for example, when I claim to be 35 it is a bit of a stretch, well, a big stretch, but it makes for a more comical dynamic.”

Cole also doesn’t discount the youth element which forms the interlude of short pieces by up-and-comers Jenna Harris, JP Larocque and Jessica Moss. “Working with JP Larocque is going to be great,” enthuses Cole. “We have had zero contact with each other thus far, but he was fantastic at a fundraiser back in September. JP read a monologue he is working on and he brought the house down. JP Larocque has a solid future ahead of him and I wish him well but he better keep his shit away from my side of the dressing room table. I need all the room I deserve and require plus just a little bit more.”

Bateman is benevolent towards Cole’s antics, “Keith always makes me nervous and that’s precisely why I love him and his work so much. If he doesn't do something vulgar, I will be very disappointed.  Keith is smart and funny and in your face and I think that fits perfectly with the whole evening.” He also has kinds words for the interluders, even excusing Larocque’s appearances on the execrable 1 Girl, 5 Guys, “I’m kind of afraid of reality TV. I get too caught up in it. I used to cry during episodes of Extreme Home Makeover when I would watch it during flights. Like the famous line Blanche Dubois cries out in A Streetcar Named Desire, ‘I don't want realism I want magic.’ But i think its great that shows like 1 Girl, 5 Gays exist - it queers a dominant cultural from and reveals the theatrical qualities and the intersections around desire and other identity issues of gay men relating to women. If I was a lot younger I'd want to be on Fear Factor or Survivor, but now, at this point in my life, Fear Factor and Survivor are basically what I encounter when I get up in the morning.”

Because, alas, according to Bateman, people really are horrible wherever you go. “Absolutely. I've always loved the line from Mary Poppins where Mrs Banks sings, ‘I don't mind men individually but in a group I think they're rather stupid.’ People are often horrible and stupid in groups, individually we can be easier to deal with. The show is a comedy but it has some very serious elements around sexual identity issues and desire, and fear, thus Fear and Desire (and the whole Damn Thing). 'The whole damn thing' of course, comes from the title of the old  Maggie Smith film Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing.”

Fear and Desire (and the Whole Damn Thing) runs Thurs, Nov 28 to Sun, Dec 1 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.