I felt confronted reading Bison. Most probably because I was on the bus and worried that the person sitting next to me might notice I was reading something pretty close to gay porn on my way to work.
There was page after page of descriptions of cocks of all sizes and in all sorts of places (and I’m not talking about the feathered variety of cock – although after reading Bison I wouldn’t be surprised if some did have feathery implants).
Lachlan Philpott’s use of language and rhythm is gorgeous and he had me entranced and horrified in equal measures. In my view, this is a good thing. Theatre should provoke reactions and Philpott’s juxtaposition of beauty and degradation is confronting, exciting and moving.
Bison is about the gay scene and is written so that it can be located in pretty much any city. I was concerned that it plays into homophobic stereotypes of all gay men being promiscuous, on the beat and obsessed with f*cking. While Philpott shows this is definitely a reality for some, he also explores long-term relationships, bitingly highlights the preoccupation with looks in the gay scene and reflects on the longing for intimacy in a world where immediacy is all that matters.
Every bar I enter I hope that things will be different. That it can stop. That I can turn off this hunger, this searching, this treading. I will find it here, I will find it and that will make all of this worth it.
Each actor plays a named character and also plays a variety of other characters or voices denoted by a number rather than names. These voices speak and interrupt in fragmentary overlapping dialogue and are particularly effective at conjuring the online world of chatrooms and chatroulette. They also convey the kaleidoscopic nature of clubs and drugs mingled with a half-dream, half-waking state.
1-4: Clock ticks
4: Something on my lips, petrol?/
1/3: Something on my lips
1: Is it?/
3: A goodbye kiss/
2: On my lips, salty, sweet taste/
1-4: the words on my lips/
2/3/4: Clock ticks
There is brutality, especially in the scene with the man who ends up in the emergency ward after the ‘best sex’ of his life. It hurts to read Bison because the loneliness is so all pervasive. The quick thrill, the fantasy and the anonymity of online hookups merge with the sadness of being too old, too fat, too soft or too small. In this meat market there are several rejections for every pickup and it’s a wonder anyone emerges with a sense of self intact.