Tag Archives: Michael Gurr

104: Sex Diary of an Infidel

3 Jul

Written in 1992, Michael Gurr’s Sex Diary of an Infidel is still pertinent and timely. On the surface, it’s a play about sex tours to the Philippines and the Australians making money out of a corrupt industry. But, more than this, it’s a play about deception and lies. The lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell each other.

Sex Diary of an Infidel

Jean is an award-winning journalist heading to Manila with her photographer boyfriend Martin to do a story on sex tourism. We soon realise that we can take nothing she says at face value as she is a compulsive liar. She lies to everyone, about everything. The story she won a huge award for was probably all faked. It was about Tony, a young guy living on the streets in Sydney.

Since winning $20,000 for her story, Tony has been blackmailing Jean for a share of the money. When she goes to Manila he breaks into her flat and is discovered by Jean’s sister Laura who is supposed to be feeding the cat while she’s away.

TONY: Who are you?
LAURA: The window’s broken.
TONY: Yes. I saw that. Do I know you?
LAURA: Sorry. Laura. I’m Jean’s sister.
TONY: Oh, yes.
LAURA: I’ve got a key.
TONY: Obviously.
LAURA: I’m meant to be feeding the cat.
TONY: I think it’s gone.

As easily as this, Tony persuades Laura that he’s supposed to be in the flat and they are soon in bed together, bonding partly over how little they both know Jean.

Meanwhile, over in Manila, Jean has met up with Max, an older man who runs an exclusive escort service and who knows Jean from years ago. One of Max’s most exotic and successful ‘girls’ is a transsexual named Toni. He’s saving for a sex-change operation but is becoming more political and faces a choice between the life he wanted (as a woman) and being a revolutionary.

Max and Toni both keep vocal diaries of sorts. Toni’s is his regular prayer to the holy quartet.

TONI: Father. Son. Holy Ghost. (Beat) And Mary. (Beat) Today I gave blow to two Australians and an American soldier. I used condoms. Please send condoms that taste better. I don’t like to ask, it makes me sound like a peasant. You know, ‘And please God keep the goat out of the vegetables.’ But it would be a help.

Max’s diary is recorded into a small tape recorder.

MAX: Oh, one thing I must tell you. One of our clients was rather creatively ‘got’ this week. Tattooed under Seconal. I believe his prick now sports a colourful local insult in indelible ink. Try explaining that to the wife. Somewhere in Australia, in a tiled and floral-towelled bathroom, a man is weeping over a pumice stone. So much sadness for an hour of what isn’t always bliss.

Gurr’s writing is sharp, humorous and surprisingly (considering the subject matter) filled with hope.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 4M, 2F

92: The Simple Truth

21 Jun

Michael Gurr’s The Simple Truth is a two-hander that is an interrogation and investigation into story telling and truth.

The Simple Truth

The play is set inside a room at a police station. A woman, Sarah, sits at a table with a detective, Hirst. At first he talks – at length – until finally she speaks. She has come to confess something. But whether she did what she says she did is another matter. As is whether Hirst is who he presents as being.

This is a very still, reflective play, dense with language and seeming not to need visuals. (It could probably work as a radio play as well as a stage play.) It’s subtle, sometimes confusing and always enigmatic. There are Gurr’s usual witty one-liners and clever plays on words, but the overwhelming feeling is one of loss.

HIRST: [Speaking about an old colleague] He lost both testicles in an alpine rescue accident and went into academia.
Unfortunately this is a non-smoking police station. Because right about then I would have lit up.
When I say he lost his testicles, I don’t mean he misplaced them. They were taken from him. It was a faulty helicopter winch rope and a new recruit not following procedure.
Castrated at two hundred feet and spinning like a fucking catherine wheel.

Sarah’s life has been constrained and choked by her doctor husband. She has been voiceless too long and when she starts to describe her pain to Hirst, it seems the words will unravel her.

SARAH: [Talking about her husband] He watched them work. Utterly silent and utterly pleased while I told him about the pain, but without words.
I could not speak.
Everything I have told you, everything I have said, I said to him, but I wasn’t able to say it.

Aside from the loneliness of being in a marriage with someone you cannot speak to or being a police officer with a voice and learning that no one wants to hear or appreciates, there is also the loneliness of truth. Hirst would like a cunning, brilliant criminal, worthy of his detective work and Sarah wants to confess her simple truth, except that once she starts to talk it’s anything but simple and a long way from truth.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 1M, 1F

89: Julia 3

18 Jun

I read Michael Gurr and feel waves of recognition and sadness. He cares passionately. Lots of writers care passionately, in fact it could well be a prerequisite for pouring your soul onto a page or tapping it into a keyboard, but few manage to articulate that passion as clearly as Gurr does.

Julia 3 and me

Julia 3 could be an allegory about big business and the rape of the third world, or about wealthy do-gooders and the way that a donation can wash the stain of corruption from dirty fingers. Or it can be read from the surface as a play about an extremely wealthy woman trying to settle her uneasy conscience while toying with her three living projects.

It’s Julia’s husband’s funeral. When he was alive he managed other people’s money: lots of it. He also started a foundation to give money to “good causes”. As Julia puts it: “[…] paying people next to nothing to sew little button eyes onto children’s toys, well, that’s just commerce. But medical research and art and the study of literature, these are good things.” There’s a can of worms just waiting to be opened right there.

Anyway, Julia is put in charge of running the Foundation and she chooses who will get the cheques and sets up her pet projects. There are three of them: three men. Charlie, the youngest, is writing a book about love. Joe is a scientist looking for a cure for cancer and Leon is an art valuer who decides whether works are authentic. Julia is having affairs with all of them and they meet for the first time at her husband’s funeral.

There are plenty of tensions between the suitors but they are balanced by Julia’s long soliloquies and observations on the world. Julia gets four newspapers every day and is used to the “soft avalanche of disasters” on her table.

JULIA: You can be forgiven for thinking that it’s the same passenger ferry sinking over an over again.
Do you know what I mean?
The same colonel mounting the same coup, the same child in the rubble. You know?
How there is always a child buried in the rubble after a bomb or an earthquake? I can see his face now, these big men’s arms lifting him out as if he was made of light. […]
I mean, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to disregard those lives, I’m only saying that in our minds it is almost like thinking: Oh, that passenger ferry has sunk again. Or: there’s that little boy again […]
And sometimes, I don’t know, but sometimes, it’s as if these events don’t stop.
So that the child is always buried. The boat is always sinking.

And if the boat keeps sinking and the child is always buried, it stands to reason that we lucky ones will keep averting our eyes, or finding new ways to salve our consciences. And that, for me, is what Julia 3 is about. When the world is too hard to take, there’s always lust, power or maybe even love in which to lose yourself.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 3M, 1F