'Secret lives away from their wives': a look at new play Exclusion
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'Secret lives away from their wives': a look at new play Exclusion

Exclusion. By David Atfield. In collaboration with Pride festival SpringOut, supported by the ACT Government. The Street Theatre. November 9-17, 2018. Tickets $30-49. Bookings: thestreet.org.au.

Exclusion comes to the Street Theatre. Pictured: Ethan Gibson, Fiona Victoria Hopkins and Craig Alexander.

Exclusion comes to the Street Theatre. Pictured: Ethan Gibson, Fiona Victoria Hopkins and Craig Alexander.Credit:Shelly Higgs

"Nudity, sexual and adult themes, coarse language and drug use" is the warning on the latest play by David Atfield. Tie those elements into a politically-charged Canberra setting, and you've got a production that might shock a few people around town.

Bisexuality really intrigues me. Particularly married straight men who have sex with men.

Presented in collaboration with Pride festival SpringOut, and supported by the ACT government, Exclusion is the newest play from Canberra director David Atfield.

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The starting point for Atfield was the thought of what would happen if a male politician, married to a woman, was outed as seeing men.

"Many men of my generation - and older - have got married because it was expected, and then they've had secret lives away from their wives. I think this is rarer in these younger generations," Atfield said.

"Bisexuality really intrigues me. Particularly married straight men who have sex with men, and placing that in a political context makes it even more interesting. A lot of men I know are in this situation."

Last year's marriage equality debate initially inspired Atfield to create the play.

"I was intrigued to hear politicians talking about sexuality in a very open way, much more open than we're used to.

"It made me think about politicians' own sexualities, and how it might affect public policy. And how some of these politicians might be hypocritical in their public persona, compared to their private lives."

Despite Canberra forming the backdrop for the politically-charged play, Atfield says it's more so an exploration of personal sexuality and attitudes towards sexuality.

"As we know, sexuality isn't always black and white. All sorts of strange things can happen within a lifetime.

"In the play, I look at five different characters, all involved in politics in different ways, and how sexuality affects their lives and how their attitudes can change towards that."

While Atfield has often been compelled by "sex, love and power" in his previous plays like Scandalous Boy, Exclusion is a sharp turn from his most recent directorial efforts, The Little Mermaid at the Canberra Theatre Centre.

"The Little Mermaid is about gender roles in some ways. It's about a woman who discovers her power. It's much lighter, of course.

"But I like to work with rich visuals, and The Little Mermaid certainly opened opportunities for that."

Sexuality isn't always black and white. All sorts of strange things can happen within a lifetime.

This theatricality will carry over to Exclusion, with the "very visual and sensual" production, designed by Imogen Keen, using beds and desks as the central props.

The star of Scandalous Boy and recent NIDA graduate, Ethan Gibson, and Craig Alexander, fresh from performing in Venus in Fur will appear in the new play. As for the rest of the cast, Atfield admits he was "spoilt for choice" in terms of Canberra talent.

The storyline will unfold over one act, as Atfield prefers things "shorter and sharper".

"There's a lot of confronting things in the play. Nudity and sex scenes. Things that could be quite confronting for audiences. Some of it will be fun and sexy.

"It's going to be an exciting night in the theatre. Not something you'll get bored in. I think it might shake a few Canberrans up."