To be honest, I thought I was going to hate this show “ being greeted by a hearty drag queen, his language ripe and his ear-rings glittering. This act continued from the stalls for a while, telling a distinctly queenie history of the early days of AIDS “ not a subject I find that bitch-laden. Clearly, we’re no longer in an era that produced great plays like ‘Angels in America’ where the disease and its effects upon the male gay community were treated dead seriously.
But we are, it seems, in an era where the tolerability of AIDS thanks to drugs is producing a class of idiot who sees merit in playing knock down Ginger “ ie. actually trying to catch the disease.
That shock over, writer, dancer and performer Jacob Boehme, working under the aegis of Melbourne’s Ilbijerri Theatre Company – sees fit to become himself; first dancing with mainly strong upper-body movement to some unidentified electronic music, and then engaging us further with his love life! Rather sweetly, we learn that four weeks with the same man when you’re both beyond the first flush of youth is virtually a relationship, and tonight’s going to be the night at a swish restaurant where they might make some sort of commitment.
But…… Two hurdles to o’erleap. And both are linked to blood. And blood has almost come between the guys when Jacob cuts himself while helping prepare dinner at his partner’s (Oscar?) place and has to forestall the caring fellow from licking the wound.
For, we then accumulate information about Jacob’s colourful past “ night-time trysts at a gay beat “ Sandwich Beach? – in which an increasingly paranoid cry of Are you clean? becomes the closest anyone gets to passion. Jacob’s not clean in that sense “ 18 years HIV positive, we eventually learn. But does he also have a worse admission to make to Oscar?
An elderly face has appeared a number of times on the screen behind Boehme “ both close-ups of an eye and a full face “ never identified. The face has lines and brown skin. Now we learn that Jacob is the pale offspring of an Aboriginal father who spent his younger years denying his mother and moving the family around claiming they were Filippino, Malaysian or whatever. The paleness, Dad says resulted from his undiminished passion for his white wife when you were made, allowing her skin to dominate that section of his DNA. Jacob’s siblings were made as love declined; and are consequently darker. But You’re my blood swears a Dad at last embracing his skin, and red liquid filled with ominous bubbles replaces Dad’s face on the screen as Boehme does some of his most interesting dance in silhouette against it.
We also learn the Narangga/Kaurna legend of the pelican versus the eagle for a fine feed of barramundi. Neither gets it, and the scales of the fish buried in a cave turn to diamonds “ which is remarkably like the Gija legend of the Kimberley mountain range that looked like a barra carrying sacred eggs, which turned out to be the Argyle Diamond Mine! Jacob’s animal dance isn’t the full tribal thing “ but makes urban sense.
Now, will Boehme’s doubly infected blood put Oscar off? By the end of ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’ at Carriageworks, there’s no doubt we’re all rooting for him, in the nicest possible way!
And if you find my description of Jacob Boehme’s metaphorical and multimedia story-telling appealing, look out for Yirramboi, the First Nations Arts Festival in Melbourne in May which he directs, and which aims to deeply engage the local Aboriginal community while extending an invitation to First Nations artists and communities across the country and the world.