ONE of the biggest disappointments in the local arts scene recently was the postponement of David Atfield’s new play “Chiaroscuro”.
Atfield has been selected to be in residence at the Canberra Theater Center from August 2 to 29, as part of its inaugural “New Works” program.
Following the story of the famous Italian painter Caravaggio, while painting a masterpiece from his studio in late Renaissance Italy, the piece was inspired when Atfield saw his’ The Resurrection of Lazarus ”in Sicily and became interested in the idea of the model. forming a romantic collaboration with Caravaggio, noting that many art historians attempt to deny the artist’s sexuality, “as if it diminishes his work”.
Atfield avoided the joys of rehearsing through Zoom and due to covid the project was postponed until November, during the SpringOut festival in Canberra.
Meanwhile, Atfield’s other new game, which touches on lockdown, has just undergone a “First Seen” development at The Street via Zoom.
In “Just Wrong,” Gus, 50, a former pop star married to a model, takes advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown because it gives her an excuse to wallow in her glorious failure.
Kind of a comedy, it explores artistic creation in a world full of rejection – and it gives Atfield an excuse to celebrate all of Eurovision through music. He has never used original songs before, but is looking to work with a songwriter.
One of the things you can expect to see in any Atfield room these days is frontal male nudity, something of a hallmark of his productions, starting with the ‘Scandalous’ Boy ”from 2014 about Emperor Hadrian Antinous’s lover, and continues in the 2018 play“ Exclusion, ”written during the marriage equality debate about a bisexual prime minister. Atfield is quick to point out that in these pieces, nudity was shared equally between the sexes.
Winner of three Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards, he is one of Canberra’s most respected directors and playwrights. He first came to ACT as the director of the Skylark Company’s Puppet Theater shortly after graduating from NIDA in 1991, but preferring human actors to puppets, he quickly turned to the “right” theater.
After Skylark, he formed his own independent theater company, BITS Theater, staging everything from Michael Gow’s “Furious” to Tennessee Williams’ latest play “Something Cloudy, Something Clear” and his own play “Pink Triangles” on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.
An ongoing love affair with cinema culminated in her 1998 screenplay, “Louise Lovely”, about silent film idol Louise Lovely, which led to an introduction to the National Film and Sound Archive, which offered her a day job, which he still occupies. .
Then he stopped.
“I went underground for nine years, I stopped being an artist,” he says. “I cover this in Act II of ‘Just Wrong’, where my passion for ’90s dance music is also covered.”
In the fallow period, he did a bit of DJing for private functions while focusing on his work at the NFSA.
But it’s usually impossible to retain an artist, and Atfield soon returns to it, this time turning to dramatic writing and directing, as he has done for the past decade.
Aside from a bizarre side step in directing the Disney musical “The Little Mermaid” for Free Rain in 2016, Atfield has resolutely focused on queer issues in his plays.
Identifying himself for the first time as a gay director in the 90s, Atfield was well aware of the particular attitude towards sexuality in the industry which saw Tom Hanks obtain an Oscar for being “brave. Playing a gay man and Rupert Everett ceased to be a romantic leader after he came out – “as if he wasn’t a full human being,” he said.
He describes the taboo against displaying the male sexual organ on stage as “very paranoid… I find it boring to use women as a sex object but not men”.
“Sexuality and nudity is something to celebrate, not something to hide.”
But Atfield admits that the issue of nudity on stage has been muddied somewhat with the advent of the Me Too movement, so nowadays productions need to have an “intimacy coach” to make everyone feel safe. with nudity. This will happen with “Chiaroscuro”.
“Chiaroscuro” performance dates will soon be available on canberratheatrecentre.com.au
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Ian Meikle, editor