Vault Festival preview: This Queer House

Welcome to another preview from this year’s Vault Festival.

This Queer House is running from 27 February to 1 March 2020 in the Network Theatre on Lower Road. It is the latest production from the OPIA Collective (I saw their The Girl With Glitter In Her Eye last month at the Bunker).

The play will be raising money for the Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre and Gendered Intelligence at each of its performances.

“A young queer couple inherit a home. A joint renevation project begins. A restless house gathers strength … as the wedge between them widens, Leah and Oli are forced to take direct action against their legacy”.

I asked writer Oakley Flanagan, director Masha Kevinovna, and producer Oli Isaac to share their thoughts about This Queer House.

Publicity image for This Queer House

Tell me a bit about the development of this latest show. It sounds fascinating!

Oli:

It’s something we’ve been building over time. We had several work in progress shows last summer, before we went away to redevelop this show for Vault Festival. It’s been an amazing journey really.

Oakley has written a beautiful piece and it’s been a gift to see it evolve over time, and for the play to come to life in the way it has. There’s so much rich material we had to play with in other incarnations, so it’s been about experimenting, testing out the different angles we can present the story from.

It’s been about decorating the play world, filling it with its own distinct sounds and movements, its own OPIA-style beats and rhythms, to really bring it to life, which I think we’ve definitely achieved.

Masha:

Honestly, the turnaround has been mad! We just finished working on our previous show, The Girl With Glitter In Her Eye, which was part of The Bunker’s closing season, and then we dove straight into this.

It’s been a wild journey, but a beautiful one. The team we’ve put together for this is such a dream, and working with them makes even the difficult stuff easier.

Opia Collective focuses on queer and/or female voices across a range of art forms. Do you find it a challenge to create accessible work for audiences within these parameters?

Masha:

Not particularly. The stories we tell are, of course, cultivated and told by queer and/or female voices, which is the platform we want to uplift. I think ultimately, however, the stories we tell are human, and part of what we do in the rehearsal room is to find core moments that can be recognised by anyone.

Our process operates by working across critical and/or artistic boundaries to build worlds on stage. In order to do this, forms, be they; theatre, spoken word, live music or movement, become different parts of the same creative language we use.

This Queer House refers to both the couple moving in and the house they inhabit, playing on both definitions of the word. How did this inform the writing of the piece?

Oakley:

When I began writing the play, I was very interested in the idea of space, its theatrical possibilities, its resonance for queer bodies and how they can be welcomed or dismissed within certain spaces.

As a live medium, theatre can be a powerful means of turning spaces into characters in their own right. This was the direction the play eventually took after several drafts mining down to the play’s core about the effects relocation has on a queer couple, who become dislocated within a space that, by degrees, grows hostile to them.

I suppose I was interested in how the set-up of inheriting a home (especially for most millennials) already seemed an impossible prospect. That’s where I began, asking questions about why it is we constantly renovate old structures, instead of imagining new ones.

Writer Oakley Flanagan. Courtesy OPIA Collective Twitter.
Writer Oakley Flanagan. Courtesy OPIA Collective Twitter.

On one hand, there is a relatable desire for a home we can feel safe and secure in, but there is also the troubling possibility of the gentrification, not just of spaces, but our politics. Bringing the house to life, helped explore that.

I was struck with how ‘queer’ operates both as a pejorative term, as well as a critical approach in terms of queer theory. This duality became a way to explore both Leah and Oli, its’ occupants’ relationship, as well as serving for a broader metaphor about assimilation into spaces such as the ‘family home’, and the affective role the house plays in their lives.

What began as a play about the parameters around normativity and non-conformity, became a play about the desire for remaking a home, problematised by the practical and historical difficulties houses carry.

Houses are bound up with many heteronormative and patriarchal ideas, and confronting this tension was an exciting way to explore ownership. What happens when, having fought to be accepted by society, we are forced to consider; on whose terms are we accepted, and for how long?

What should audiences expect from this new show?

Masha:

An attempt at home-making that veers off-track. It’s messy and chaotic, in all the right ways. It’s a ride for sure.

Why was it important to stage this show at the Vault Festival, and does it help creativity to be part of such a large group of performers and producers?

Oli:

Yes! We feel so honoured and privileged to be a part of Vault Festival. The artists and infrastructure they have put in place has created such an amazing and safe environment.

We’ve been blessed to see some great pieces of work that are at the start of their journey. I particularly want to to give a shout out to the Vault team behind the scenes, who will answer any question day or night, with the utmost respect and seriousness (no matter how silly we think it might be).

Rehearsal image for This Queer House. Image by Rachel Carlton.
Rehearsal image for This Queer House. Image by Rachel Carlton.

My thanks to Oakley, Masha and Oli for their time. You can find out more about OPIA Collective at their website.

You can book for This Queer House at the Vault Festival website.

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